THE WORLD sorghum market is being dragged down by the worldwide glut of feed grain, but demand from manufacturers of a Chinese alcoholic drink is providing welcome support.
Baijiu may be obscure in the western world, but such is its popularity, the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC) said it is the largest selling spirit in the world, ahead of heavy hitters such as whisky and vodka.
And Mark Best, senior sorghum trader with Nidera said while the Chinese feed grain sector was not buying Australian sorghum there were still some orders for use in making baijiu.
“It is not bulk shipments or anything, but there are orders for containers of sorghum which is a good alternative market for the grain,” he said.
AEGIC estimated the baijiu industry to be worth $23 billion. The spirit is not universally made from sorghum, but sorghum is by far the most common source grain.
The steady demand for sorghum for baijiu consolidates China as an importer of Australian sorghum.
China did not import sorghum until 2013, when it launched a spectacular bid on Australian stocks, pushing Australian sorghum prices to near record levels.
AEGIC said it was now working on a project with other partners, including the University of Queensland to examine opportunities for increasing the value of Australian sorghum exports to China, including work on varieties better suited to making baijiu.