Sorghum is a local grain that is grown predominantly in the semiarid savannah and grassland areas of Northern Nigeria and other parts of the world. It is nutritionally rich and serves as a staple food in most parts of Northern Nigeria. The grain has assumed commercial relevance lately, especially in the food and beverage industry. It has been found to be a valuable ingredient next to malted barley used in the industry.

Grain sorghum is an annual grass similar in appearance to maize (corn), although it has more stems and more finely branched roots. For instance, wild sorghum is a tall plant of 5-7 feet.

For purposes of different varieties in the market, through breeding efforts, newer varieties like 2-3 dwarf genes, has be introduced resulting in a plant 2-4 feet tall and easier to harvest. It has been difficult for historians to tell exactly when and where sorghum was domesticated. Whether it was domesticated in Africa, or transported from Africa and domesticated in India and then returned to Africa, is not certain.

However, record showed that African slaves brought sorghum seeds with them to the United States of America, which has turned out to be one of the major sorghum growing and exporting countries in the world.

Sorghum is a nutritionally rich, energy producing cereal that can be grown in areas of the world that are too hot or too dry for other crops to be grown successfully. That is why sorghum is one of the five most important cereal crops behind rice, wheat, corn and barley that grow in northern part of Nigeria.

The top sorghum producers are Mexico, Nigeria, U.S.A and India. But U.S is the top exporter (70% to 80% of world sorghum exports) and also uses sorghum as livestock feed.

Today, the grain sorghum is cultivated across the world in the warmer climatic areas. It is grown in about 8.5 million hectares of land in Nigeria. In 2013, the production levels of sorghum in Nigeria, Africa and the world were estimated at 6.9 million, 20 million and 60 million metric tonnes, respectively.

Sorghum quantitatively is the second most important cereal in Africa after maize. It is mainly eaten in form of flour or paste. A grain sorghum cultivar Top 10 countries in the production of sorghum in 2012 ( Metric tonnes) Source: Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAOSTAT) 2012 has a high calorific and nutritional value and, therefore, it is recommended for infants, pregnant and lactating mothers, the elderly and the convalescents.

Around the world, sorghum production and consumption are on the rise but they are not growing as fast as the world population. Therefore, the supply (and calories) per capita is actually decreasing.

In Africa, sorghum is still largely a subsistence food crop, but as this publication shows, it is increasingly being used by the food and beverage industry in Nigeria.

Global Production of Sorghum Sorghum is one of the few resilient crops that can adapt well to future climate change conditions, particularly the increasing drought, soil salinity and high temperatures.

Nutritional Profile of grains such as rice and maize, sorghum contains carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fibre, ash and minerals. Its nutritional value is good enough but not exceptional when compared with other locally available cereals that are grown as staple foods in Nigeria.

Globally, over half of all sorghum produced is used for human consumption. When processed, the nutritional value of sorghum is comparable to corn, so in some cases, it requires supplementation with vitamin A.

Sorghum is about 70% starch, so it is a good energy source. It also contains proteins. A World Health Organisation report suggests the inherent capacity of the existing sorghum varieties commonly consumed in poor countries was Sorghum bicolor not adequate to meet the growth requirements of infants and young children. The report also claimed sorghum alone may not be able to meet the healthy maintenance requirements in adults.

Nutritional Information on Sorghum and Corn Source: ICRISAT Nutritional Information Nutrient Per 100gm Serving Sorghum Corn Total Calories 339 365 Calories from Fat 29.7 42.66 Total Fat (g) 3.3 4.74 Saturated Fat (g) 0.457 0.667 Protein (g) 11.3 9.42 Sorghum’s nutritional profile includes several minerals. It is a good source of B-complex vitamins. Some varieties of sorghum contain â- carotene which can be converted to vitamin A by the human body; given the photosensitive nature of carotenes and variability due to environmental factors. Some fatsoluble vitamins, namely D, E and K, have also been found in sorghum grain in detectable, but insufficient, quantities.

Uses of Sorghum are used in foods, such as porridge, bread, pastries, couscous, and beverages. But in Nigeria, sorghum is mainly consumed as tuwo (Hausa local paste) and local beverages. While, around the world, it is also used for the production of malt drinks, lagers, other beverages and confectioneries as well as in the livestock feeds industry. It can also be used as a gluten-free replacement for wheat, but due to the lack of gluten, sorghum bread is generally unleavened.

Today, breeding has resulted in better nutritional value of sorghum and better flavour. With the collaboration of Nigerian Breweries and research institutes, better breeds of sorghum are being developed and are expected to further enhance the commercial viability of the cereal.

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