Sorghum is a multi-purpose crop that can play an important role in food and fodder provision. By tapping its potential jointly, China wishes to bring sorghum cooperation into the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and benefit the people of both sides. These views were shared by experts in the Symposium on Sorghum Industry Development of China and Pakistan, organised 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 is in livestock feed for various animals. Processed sorghum can be used as floating fish food or steam flakes for ruminants at large feedlots. “In addition, it might be considered as a crop that contributes to food security as it outperforms other cereals under harsh environmental conditions and it is economical to produce,” said Sindh Agriculture University Institute of Food Sciences and Technology Assistant Professor Dr Shahzor Gul. “They are an important source of food and fodder, especially in the hot and dry areas of the country.” In environmental conditions that are too harsh for other cereals to produce grains, sorghum is a viable choice. These regions are characterised by 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 saline and waterlogged soils and it can withstand heat and drought stress better than maize. In Pakistan, its per hectare output is approximately 5.4 tons, higher than wheat and rice, which stand at 3 and 2.2 tons 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. However, according to Dr. Shahzor Gul, the yields of sorghum and millet in Pakistan are quite low due to the limited use of improved cultivator, inadequate plant population, lack of fertiliser application, weed control measures and water conservation practices. In 2019, Pakistan imported sorghum worth $12.4 million. “If Pakistan and China join hands in variety 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 of the Sorghum Research Institute of Shanxi Agricultural University. Bilateral cooperation in sorghum has already been under way. In 2020-21, five varieties of Shanxi sorghum have been planted in Pakistan for trial, which will continue in the coming year. In 2021, China imported over 9 million tons of sorghum, registering 95.6% increase.