China’s sorghum imports are steadily rising and producers are counting on the country’s importers to continue purchases into the new crop year, according to the U.S. Grains Council.  

“The Chinese buyers are watching the growing season as South Texas prepares to start their harvest,” said Reece Cannady, USGC manager of global trade, after a recent webinar the group hosted for about 50 Chinese buyers. “In general, there is a lot of excitement from the farmer all the way to the end-user in China.”

The USGC would normally be meeting with Chinese buyers face-to-face, but that’s been made impossible by the COVID-19 pandemic. So the group is doing its best by bringing farmers and buyers together through webinars.

“Every year we travel to China to check in with major importers of U.S. sorghum,” Cannady said. “We’re going to replicate those visits over Zoom this year to keep our lines of communication open.”

The virtual efforts seem to be paying off.

China has purchased 2.84 million metric tons of U.S. sorghum so far for the 2019-20 marketing year, surpassing the 2018-19 total, according to the U.S. Grains Council.  

But the Chinese aren’t just waiting for the harvest. They’re already buying new crop. So far, purchases have totaled 305,000 tons for the 2020-21 marketing year.

And the prospects for 2020-21 are good, according to USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. China is now forecast to consume 7.7 million tons of sorghum for the coming marketing year. That’s a 2.2 million-ton increase from the previous FAS prediction and it’s expected to boost imports.

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Normally, Australian barley would take a major share of that import demand for feedstuffs, but China’s recent decision to hit Australian barley with antidumping and countervailing duties should make U.S. sorghum even more attractive to importers, FAS said in a recent analysis.

FAS is now forecasting that China will import 4 million tons of sorghum in 2020-21, more than 30% more than in 2019-20.

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