BEIJING: “Sorghum is a multi-purpose crop that can play an important role in food and fodder provision. By tapping its potential jointly, we wish to bring sorghum cooperation into the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and benefit both peoples”.
These are the views shared by experts on the Symposium on Sorghum Industry Development of China Pakistan organized by the Belt and Road International Institute of Scientific and Technological Innovation of Sorghum Industry, Sorghum Research Institute, Shanxi Agricultural University, and National Sorghum Industry Technology Innovation Strategic Alliance, China.
The major use for sorghum in livestock feeds for various animals. Processed sorghum can be used as floating fish food or steam flakes for ruminants at large feedlots, CEN reported.
“Also, it might be considered as a crop that contributes to food security as they outperform other cereals under harsh environmental conditions and are economical to produce. They are an important source of food and fodder, especially in the hot and dry areas of the country”, introduced Dr. Shahzor Gul, Assistant Professor, Institute of Food Sciences and Technology, Sindh Agriculture University.
In environmental conditions that are too harsh for other cereals to produce grains, sorghum is a viable choice. These regions are characterized by the erratic distribution of annual rainfall, high mean temperature, and depleted soil fertility.
As a tropical plant, it has remarkable adaptability to various climates and soils except for saline and waterlogged soil and can withstand heat and drought stress better than maize. In Pakistan, its per hectare output is approximately 5.4 tonnes, higher than wheat and rice, which stand at 3.0 and 2.2 tonnes per hectare respectively. Meanwhile, the demand for millet and sorghum is much less and there is no direct competition as wheat essentially is a winter crop and sorghum is a summer crop.
But, according to Dr. Shahzor Gul, the yields of sorghum and millet in Pakistan are very low due to the limited use of improved cultivators, inadequate plant population, lack of fertilizer application, weed control measures, and water conservation practices.
In 2019, Pakistan imported sorghum worth $12.4 million. “If Pakistan and China join hands in various research, demonstration cultivation, talent training, and technical guidance, we can provide nutritious food for Pakistani people and quality forage for Pakistani animal husbandry”, proposed Ping Junai from the Sorghum Research Institute of Shanxi Agricultural University.
Bilateral cooperation in sorghum has already been underway. In 2020-21, five varieties of Shanxi sorghum will be planted in Pakistan for trial, which will continue in the coming year.
In 2021, China imported over 9 million tons of sorghum, registering a 95.6% increase. “In China, there is no limit quota on sorghum, providing a vast market for Pakistani sorghum products. In this regard, joint ventures can be built for joint sorghum production”, said Yuan Guobao, a leading agricultural expert in China.
“In Pakistan, the area under sorghum and millet on the average is 1.5 million hectares. Punjab and Sindh are the major sorghum-producing provinces, contributing respectively 47% and 26% of the total. They can become the focal areas of bilateral sorghum cooperation”, shared Dr. Shahzad Sabir from Punjab Agriculture Department.