LINCOLN, Neb. – On Monday, October 10, 2022, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) voted to include sorghum in the 2023 “International Year of the Millet.” The term millets is used to describe a number of small ancient grains grown around the globe, but most commonly used in traditional dishes in India and many African nations. These grains are typically high in nutritional value, drought resistant, and can be utilized in much the same way as rice or wheat in human and animal diets, but also in ethanol, bioplastics, fiber, and other industrial applications. Sorghum, while not botanically in the millet family, is considered to be a “major millet” in most of the world due to its larger size comparable to other millets. Thus, the grain is used interchangeably in recipe blends and is in essence ‘ethnobotanically’ part of the millet family.
In anticipation of the outcome of this vote, Nebraska Sorghum began facilitating an international group of sorghum stakeholders in February of 2022. “Sorghum United,” is a fifty-plus member group of researchers, entrepreneurs, crop breeders, and administrators from Japan, Australia, India, Moldova, Switzerland, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Mali, Uganda, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, and the USA. The goal of the group has been to present a united front in promoting the global sorghum industry while leveraging the international year of the millet.
Nebraska Sorghum Executive Director, Nate Blum commented, “Nebraska Sorghum commends the United Nations FAO on the inclusion of sorghum in the ‘International Year of the Millet.’ This is a big deal for the already-growing sorghum industry. An example of the power of the ‘International Year’ promotions can be seen in 2013’s ‘International Year of Quinoa.’ Prior to the FAO’s effort to promote this small South American Grain, a majority of consumers were unaware of the grain. We anticipate that the ‘International Year of the Millet’ will result in similar market growth and awareness for sorghum and millets.”
“We are proud to work with our international team of sorghum stakeholders to prepare to leverage this development well ahead of the FAO vote. Sorghum United represents a truly global effort to collaborate for the good of an entire industry. We are eager to work to help the United Nations to promote these healthy and climate-smart grains while also promoting Nebraska as an ideal location for value-added processing for finished and semi-finished goods for the North American market.”
Sorghum United has begun development of a website (www.sorghumunited.com), a Facebook page, and will soon unveil a ten-piece advertising campaign which will highlight the industrial, dietary, and environmental benefits of sorghum for consideration of use by the United Nations throughout 2023.
Blum continued, “This vote is one more exciting announcement in a string of recent announcements which should elicit excitement for Nebraska’s Ag producers. The development of high-value markets for sorghum will create opportunities for on-farm revenue diversification and soil and water conservation practices which will positively benefit yields in advanced cropping rotations.”
The seven sorghum farmers serving on the Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board administer the check-off assessed on all grain sorghum sold in the state. The board’s annual budget is allocated to the areas of research, market development, and education.
— Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board