Food aid currently represents about six percent of the U.S. sorghum market, making it a major customer of sorghum producers. While food aid sources quite a bit of sorghum from the U.S., there are a limited number of products available using sorghum.
Non-profit organizations buy food aid products to donate to people in needy countries. These organizations consider multiple factors when choosing a product for a specific area or population, including the culture's familiarity with the product. Sorghum is quite well known in many parts of Africa, which often require food aid assistance. However, because sorghum is not very well known to U.S. non-profit organizations, they are less likely to choose it.
To combat this limitation, the Sorghum Checkoff published a booklet to educate food aid buyers about the benefits of sorghum in many food products and has been working with several institutions to create new products to add sorghum to the food aid basket.
Sajid Alavi of Kansas State University has continued his work on extruded sorghum products, progressing from a puff-like cereal a few months ago to a finely-ground porridge that can be fortified with vitamins and minerals and requires minimal amounts of energy to prepare.
"This project focuses on a new food aid product within the basket of products that exist for food aid," Alavi said. "We created a sorghum-soy fortified blend, which when mixed with boiling water, makes porridge ideal to address issues of childhood and infant malnutrition."
This new product, initially funded by USCP, can be mixed with many other products, such as cowpeas, to adapt to the needs of various populations. Organizations buying food aid products also benefit from sorghum because it requires lower inputs than many crops, often making it more economically priced.
USDA recently chose Alavi's project at K-State for funding to increase the number of products in the food aid basket. The $3 million grant will fund K-State's research with sorghum and field test the products in Tanzania. Through this pilot program, USDA hopes to identify more effective products to distribute through food aid. This project could also lead to more opportunities for sorghum in the food aid arena.
"We are grateful to USCP and USDA for their support in developing these products," Alavi said. "We are continuing to work on other materials to blend with sorghum to increase the amount of sorghum included in food aid, which in return, will increase demand."