Sorghum originated in northern Africa and has spread to many tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It can tolerate poor soils and thanks to some unique features of its anatomy, resist drought. Sorghum plants have a very large root-to-leaf surface area. The leaves have a waxy cuticle for protection and under water stress the leaf margins roll up to reduce transpiration. Plants will go into dormancy if the stress is too great. This makes sorghum a very important crop for millions of poor farmers around the world. Sorghum is the 5th most widely grown crop in the world. The largest area of sorghum production is in India, followed by Nigeria, Sudan and Niger. Fifty three percent of the world’s production area is located in sub-Saharan Africa. In sub-Saharan Africa sorghum covers the 2nd largest area after maize. Behind the USA, Nigeria is the 2nd largest producer; Sudan and Ethiopia are 5th and 8th, respectively. In Western and Central Africa the area devoted to sorghum has more than doubled since the 1970s, but yields have not grown at the same rate. In the same period, the production area in Eastern and Southern Africa expanded by about 40%, although yields have also not followed at the same rate in these regions.

Reference to numbers/statistics are from FAOSTAT 2010 for the year 2008

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