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China Returns to Top Export Spot for U.S. Sorghum

Trade tensions in 2018 caused U.S. sorghum exports to China to plummet to near zero

Sorghum VIA PIXABAY April 2021

Using Market Access Program (MAP) funds, the U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC) Beijing office built upon strong customer relationships the USGC has fostered with sorghum importers since 2013 to take advantage of the Phase One trade agreement between the U.S. and China and the subsequent tariff exemption on U.S. sorghum to maximize exports.

USGC carried out multiple technical and trade programs for U.S. sorghum in China between 2013 and 2015 which caused China’s imports of U.S. sorghum to go from zero to 70% of U.S. sorghum production over that period, and China to go from a nonexistent importer to by far the largest importer of U.S. sorghum.

Trade tensions beginning in 2018 and continuing through 2019, however, caused U.S. sorghum exports to China to plummet to near zero again.

With the Phase One trade agreement between the U.S. and China signed in January 2020, and the subsequent tariff exemptions implemented in March 2020, China’s U.S. sorghum imports have come roaring back.

These exports were facilitated by USGC activities. COVID travel restrictions prevented USGC from sponsoring trade teams and other activities, but it was able to build upon the strong relationships USGC has developed with major sorghum importers over the years through various MAP-supported trade promotion activities.

USGC formulated several virtual events over the spring and summer of 2020 to facilitate exports including sponsoring three virtual conferences with presentations on U.S. sorghum supply and quality and six virtual customer visits with major sorghum importers that USGC has worked with since sorghum programming began in 2013.

These virtual programs brought together major sorghum buyers and U.S. sorghum producers, the United Sorghum Checkoff Program, the Kansas Grains Sorghum Producer Association, and the Texas Grain Sorghum Producer Association.

As a result of USGC’s promotion programs, China imports of U.S. sorghum in MY 2019/2020 rose to $691 million, and anticipated exports in MY 2020/2021 far exceed those. China is back and is the dominant importer of U.S. sorghum.

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