How To Start A Lucrative Sorghum Farming and Production Business In Nigeria: The Complete Guide
Nigeria ranks as the world’s third-largest sorghum producer after the US and India—first and second respectively.
Statistics have shown that over 5.5 million hectares of land in Nigeria is currently occupied with sorghum cultivation which accounts for the production of 2.7 to 2.8 million tonnes annually. Asides that, Nigeria’s sorghum output yielded about 35% overall as at 2007, and in West Africa, the country accounts for about 71% of the sorghum production output.
Unlike in the United States where sorghum is mainly used for fodder (livestock feed), Nigeria cultivates the type of sorghum used for food and non-alcoholic & alcoholic beverages.
Due to the Sorghum crop’s low maintenance needs, arid and semi-arid temperatures are a perfect fit for it, causing cultivation to be done easily in several states in Nigeria like Adamawa, Zamfara, Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Niger, Taraba, Sokoto, Katsina, Nasarawa, Plateau, Kebbi, Bauchi and Jigawa, whom have all taken up sorghum farming as a source of food and livelihood.
What is Sorghum Farming and Production About?
Sorghum farming and production revolve around the cultivation and possible processing of the different kinds of sorghum (bicolour) crop.
Other names for sorghum include millet, guinea corn or great corn. This crop belongs to the cereal crop family and also takes 4th place (after rice, wheat and maize) within its ranks.
With so much that can be done with the Sorghum crop, more farmers or individuals interested in the agricultural business need to seize the opportunity that its production brings.
Business Opportunities In Sorghum Farming And Production Around The World
The market potential of sorghum farming and production in Nigeria is enormous. What makes this possible is the great demand for sorghum crops in large amounts for a vast number of purposes.
A wide range of business opportunities within the sorghum farming and production business like breweries, bakeries, and livestock feeds, the market potential of Sorghum crops continue to rise with the increase in demand from businesses operating in these sub-industries.
Some sorghum farming and production business opportunities are:
1). Fodder/Livestock Feed:
The grass of sorghum crops (forage sorghum) contains rich protein and fat nutrients which makes an excellent feed for farm animals like cattle, goats and other herbivores. On the other hand, the crop’s grains can be processed into mash for poultry birds.
This is sorghum’s main use in the United States, as the sale of sorghum forage or mash is a profitable venture anywhere around the world.
As one of human’s basic needs, food is undoubtedly a continual source of income for the people who produce it.
Sorghum crops have been a major source of profit for its farmers. After harvest, the grains can be ground into flour and sold to bakeries or used for other baking purposes.
Some types of sorghum can be sold as sorghum rice—a good substitute for rice or maize.
Additionally, the syrup in sweet sorghum is extracted then brought to the market as food sweeteners.
This is an especially good business opportunity because sorghum is a maltose-rich crop. The malt it contains is the primary ingredient breweries need to produce non-alcoholic drinks like the malt soft drinks a lot of Nigerians drink.
For alcoholic drinks, however, fermentation of this ingredient produces beer powder and lager beer.
4). Biofuel/Ethanol Production:
A certain type of sorghum crop can be cultivated and then used to make ethanol; a biofuel. In turn, this biofuel gives solar energy to engines.
Facts And Benefits Of Sorghum Farming And Production.
- It is a source of high iron content. The grains and canes of sorghum contain high iron levels which can boost the circulatory system (the blood). For people who are anaemic, it can be useful as a part of their diet. Nutrients like calcium for good bone development, riboflavin and potassium are also richly present in the Sorghum crop.
- Sorghum crops make great fodder or mash feed for farm animals. It contains rich nutrients and fats farm animals need.
- Sorghum crops of any variety can survive, adapt and thrive in the hottest regions. Where other crops might wither in the harsh climatic conditions in Nigeria, the Sorghum crop has proven that it has a tremendous ability to adapt and still produce high yields.
- The sorghum crop has little or no need for moist soil. The highly adaptable crop can thrive in soils with little moisture. Irrigation is just fine and there is no need for farmers to get anxious over drought.
- Sorghum yield does not depend on fertilization. Although fertilizers such as NPK can be used to enhance yield, one can still expect a good harvest without it.
- Growth to maturity of sorghum crops spans over the space of four months. This guarantees quick harvests and timely profits for sorghum farmers.
- Recent times have shown how most cereal crops like maize and rice have gone through fluctuations in demand. In such cases—where there’s low demand—grains and cereals are stored up without distribution. Eventually, grains lose their value and that spells a loss for farmers. It’s different for sorghum. Fluctuating demands and prices don’t have drastic effects on yield sales and profit. Increasing or steady demand of sorghum crops from malt (soft) drink manufacturing companies and breweries help keep market prices, stable.
Types of Sorghum Crops
There are four main types of sorghum crops namely:
- Sweet sorghum
- Biomass sorghum
- Grain sorghum
- Forage sorghum.
These types of sorghum crops are available in most countries of the world. Each type has different varieties or hybrid which—depending on the grades—provides better yields.
1). Sweet Sorghum:
These crops are cultivated for the purpose of extracting sweeteners (syrup) from the canes. It stands as a good substitute for sugar canes with its cheaper production costs, drought tolerance, and high ethanol content.
Leaves of sweet sorghum are suitable for livestock feed. Its high ethanol content useful for biofuel makes it a viable biomass crop.
Grains of sweet sorghum are very much edible and nutritious. Currently, many sweetener manufacturers opt for sorghum rather than sugar cane because it doesn’t require lengthy fermentation or cooking time. With ethanol yields (per acre) running up to 750-800 gallons, profits would be exponential.
Farmers enjoy growing sweet sorghum due to the low variable cost. It doesn’t require the best parts of a farmland and as a result, farmers can make use of the much fertile acres for other crops.
Currently, many sweetener manufacturers opt for sorghum rather than sugar cane because it doesn’t require lengthy fermentation or cooking time.
2). Biomass Sorghum:
These are the largest sized sorghum crops at a height of 20 feet. Like other sorghum crops, it is resistant to drought and thrives within production systems already in place. This type of sorghum is grown in large quantities for their biofuel content. After harvest, yields are processed into a solar energy source.
The variety of biomass crops cultivated for maximum amounts of biofuel is called Photoperiod Sensitive forage sorghum. When compared to sweet sorghum, the PS variety is the best option for mass production of biofuel.
3). Grain Sorghum (red):
This Sorghum crop grows no higher than 4 feet tall and has the smallest seeds and panicle heads with pairs of spikelets. This particular type of sorghum is for human consumption and as such the most popular type in Nigeria. Corn meals and sorghum rice delicacies are some of the ways it can be eaten.
Dried and ground into rough powder, the grain sorghum becomes poultry feed.
4). Forage Sorghum:
This sorghum crop is mainly for pasture, hay and silage. Good crop maintenance and usage are necessary factors for profitability. Production costs of forage sorghum are low and yields are usually high.
This type of sorghum is closely related to broom corn and Sudan-grass crop variety and are drought tolerant.
The height of the forage sorghum crop varies between 8-15 feet. Fertile breeds produce grains while others are just sterile forage yield.
Livestock rearers are now going for sorghum forage because its cheaper with the rich protein nutrients required for robust animal produce.
How to Start Sorghum Farming and Production: A Step by Step Guide
1). Select A Planting Date:
In Nigeria, a great time frame for planting sorghum is between September and mid-October. Drought (harmattan) would not have settled in by this time, meaning that the soil would neither be too moist or too dry—the perfect soil condition for sorghum farming in Nigeria.
2). Land preparation:
Selecting the area of farmland needed is the next step in sorghum farming. It is necessary to measure and map out the acres of land. The number of yields desired is dependent upon these measurements.
The soil properties and temperatures should be noted—perfect soil temperature is about 15°c.
Sorghum is mostly alkaline-tolerant and can be grown on a soil with PH (KCI) between 6.0 and 8.5. Soil PH is less than 6.0 necessitates liming.
Clay percentage in the soil should be about 10% to 30% for a really good sorghum production. Do note that 7°C to 10°C is the minimum soil temperatures and if it goes any lower, seeds will fail to germinate. Also, temperatures higher than 15°C drastically affects yields.
The next thing to do after mapping out the required acres is tilling. Consider hiring farm machinery. Human labour will do but leasing a tilling machine like the disk plough or harrow is the better alternative.
Since sorghum soil needs just a little tilling, harrowing machines are time efficient i.e. faster than manual labour.
Preparing the row space and seed depth is accompanied by soil tilling. Seed depth should not be more than 3.8 cm or the seeds could die out. Speedy germination and water retention are dependent on the firmness of the soil. Row width 0.30m to 0.40m. Areas with drier soil and low rainfall need wide rows for optimum cultivation. On the other hand, higher rainfall zones need rows no more than 0.15m.
Lastly, for a planting population of up to 110,000 -150,000 sorghum crops, 3.0-8.0 kg per hectare will be perfect.
4). Seed Selections:
A very important factor to put into consideration before sorghum farming is seed selection. Now, in every type of sorghum, there are varieties. Each new hybrid is always better than the last. Inherited or native seeds cannot compare to the yields that an ICSV-700 would bring. Therefore it is best to go for these cross-pollinated and scientifically engineered hybrids for maximum output.
Carefully select seeds that can adapt to the climatic, environmental and soil conditions of the area where your acres lie. Always consider stalk strength and maturity of the hybrid seeds. Buying mature seeds makes a better investment than a short-season hybrid would.
Efficient seed placement calls for corn or tractor-drawn planters.
Prior to planting, mix in NPK or other appropriate fertilizers in moist soil. Dry soil requires irrigation or rainfall afterwards. Fertilizer should be reapplied five to six weeks after planting.
6). Weed/Pest Control:
Herbicides like Atrazine are applied with boom spray for weed control. Take care to apply herbicides before seeds germinate. Pesticides for pests that attack terminating seeds should be applied during planting. Carbofuran 3G at 8-10 ha should take care of most pests like shoot fly, bollworm and Chillo Borer.
Sweet sorghum is harvested 14-17 days after the grains begin milking (pierce the grain to check for milk-like liquid). Cut off the canes from the bottom, remove the leaves and then keep the canes aside. Grain and forage sorghum needs to be left a while longer; just until the grain become mature (hard and bright)
Yields are either manually or mechanically harvested. Large yields require harvesters. Sugarcane harvesters will do for sweet or forage sorghum. Manually cut off the seed clusters of grain sorghum with a few inches of stalks remaining.
8). Sell Your Sorghum Crops:
The Nigerian market gives sorghum farmers the benefits of a booming market and better price ranges per kilogram (kg) of yields, especially since a kilogram of sorghum could range from 110 Naira to 250 Naira depending on the state it is being sold in.
With this price range, a Sorghum farmer could earn as much as 20,000 Naira for one hundred kilograms of sorghum.
To establish a recurring sales funnel for your Sorghum farming business, you should establish contacts either with organisations who supply to factories or with the end-factories themselves. This way, you’d have a recurring sales channel that ensures your Sorghum crops are always sold out.
Challenges of The Sorghum Farming And Production Business
- Financial Challenges: A lot of sorghum farmers do not have access to the substantial amount of capital needed to cover the production cost of a high yield sorghum farming business. The cost of farm machinery, good quality fertilizers, herbicides for weed control and pesticides to prevent pest infestation can sum up to 250,000 Naira or more. Acquiring that amount of capital is a challenge for most small-scale farmers, and in some cases, a deterrent to people interested in large-scale sorghum production.
- Lack of Adequate Training And Experience On Sorghum Farming: Information on the right kinds of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, farming tools, and seeds are to be carefully studied and gathered. Some farmers or agro-business individuals have taken up sorghum farming without the right knowledge of the whole process. As a result, failures have been recorded. To avoid disastrous results, never overlook current updates on sorghum tips and information.
- Poor Management Skills – Although sorghum is a low maintenance crop, some farmers have recorded losses due to poor management during cultivation. When things such as the right way to apply pesticides or herbicides or irrigating crops at the right time are not managed properly, it lowers the quality and quantity of sorghum yields.
Some other challenges sorghum farmers face are:
- Low and unstable investment in agricultural research
- Storage Constraints
- Farm Inputs Constraints
- Infrastructural Constraints
- Marketing Constraints
Sorghum is a multipurpose cereal crop with an ever increasing market potential and industry. Any of the four types of sorghum you pick for sorghum farming will certainly yield a good profit depending on the strength of your supply chain network. And so, it’s crucial as an agropreneur that you get the right training, management skills and substantial capital to enable you to build a successful Sorghum Farming and Production business in Nigeria, Africa, or anywhere around the world.
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