Grain sorghum is indigenous to Africa, can prosper on marginal land, has a lower water requirement than other grain crops and has been successfully cultivated on smaller hectares in South Africa, over many years by emerging farmers as a subsistence crop. Marginal land is indicative of a soil which is low in potential, shallow and has reasonably high clay content.
Grain sorghum is mainly cultivated in drier areas and is classified as a summer crop. The fact that this crop does not require excessive irrigation is beneficial in that it will reduce pressure on South Africa’s key water resources and its growth in marginal soils makes room for other crop growth on our countries high potential production soils. The Free State and Mpumalanga Provinces are the largest contributors to the area planted to sorghum and sorghum production (Source: Department of Agriculture South Africa).
Mabele Fuels has chosen grain sorghum specifically to meet the requirements of the Strategy and as a result of its potential to promote commercially successful emerging farmers. Where secure demand can be created, it is expected to be a successful crop for new and existing emerging farmers. Domestic consumption of grain sorghum has reduced due to the greater South African populations due to a reduced demand for human consumption.
As illustrated, the Free State Province is the largest sorghum producing area and produces on average 52% of the total domestic sorghum crop. Mpumalanga is the second largest sorghum-producing province (24%), followed by Limpopo (15%), North West Province (7%) and Gauteng (2%).
Mabele Fuels is of the view that the use of grain sorghum for the production of biofuels in South Africa will compliment the economy of South Africa in that:
- It will develop an additional agricultural sector that is currently under developed
- Grain sorghum is a robust agricultural product and can therefore be easily produced by emerging farmers
- The use of surplus grain sorghum will not jeopardize food security in South Africa
- Grain sorghum is produced in drier areas and it is not water intensive
- In case of under production grain sorghum can be obtained from alternative sorghum producing markets
- The manufacture of bioethanol from grain sorghum has the potential to create a significant new market for sorghum.
- The starch content of grain sorghum in terms of ethanol production is higher than that of maize in that grain sorghum contains on average approximately 7-10 percent higher starch content than that of maize.