While it is normal for U.S. sorghum prices to follow corn markets, the strength of global sorghum markets currently has U.S. Department of Agriculture’s farm price estimates for sorghum slightly higher than those of corn in 2010/2011.

Although sorghum acres have moved lower over the last decade, U.S. sorghum exports have remained stable, making exports a more important component of sorghum prices overall, said Erick Erickson, U.S. Grains Council special assistant for planning, evaluation and projects.

“Sustaining exports is critical to sustaining sorghum prices,” he said. “Additional support from Council members like the United Sorghum Checkoff Program allowed us to support key markets in Mexico and Japan, but also bring along emerging markets in Morocco and Egypt.”

Council programs in Morocco in 2010 focused on sorghum processing and its value in feed rations. The efforts led to sales of 4.8 million bushels of U.S. sorghum to Morocco during the marketing year. No U.S. sorghum was sold to the North African country the year before. At the same time, exports to Mexico remained steady, sales to Japan more than doubled, Israel entered the market and Egypt began looking at U.S. sorghum as an option.

“Exports are very important for U.S. sorghum producers, and we’ve seen some success in growing markets in new regions,” said Dr. Virgil Smail, executive director of the Sorghum Checkoff. “The strength of exports supports sorghum prices, which in turn makes sorghum more attractive to farmers and those looking to invest in the crop.”

Continued strength in exports contributed to USDA’s January estimate that on farm sorghum prices will average $5.50 per bushel in 2010/2011, ahead of the $5.30 per bushel estimate for corn.

In its January report, USDA estimated U.S. sorghum exports would be 150 million bushels for 2010/2011, and while less than 2009/2010 exports, the figure is 7 million bushels greater than exports in 2008/2009 when the average on farm price was $3.20 per bushel – $2.10 a bushel less than the current estimate.

“Council programs focus on building strong relationships and partnerships with customers around the world, and in the end, partnerships between U.S. sorghum sellers and foreign buyers help drive sales and demand,” Erickson said.