Douala, Cameroon|| Nigeria has an opportunity to profit from the multi-billion dollar sorghum market as global beer makers are canvassing the increased use of sorghum for brewing.
According to VLB Berlin, a German-based educational institution in the global brew industry, European brewers are looking for more sustainable, affordable, and versatile brewing ingredients and sorghum is becoming an increasingly popular choice compared to barley.
“There is a growing demand for sorghum compared to barley due to reasons such as sustainability, affordability, unique flavour, and growing demand for gluten-free beer,” Billy Zafack, industrial manager at Castel Group, the largest French wine producer told BusinessDay.
He added, “Sorghum is a drought-resistant crop that can be grown in different climates, making it a more sustainable option than barley, the traditional brewing ingredient. Sorghum requires less water and fertiliser than barley, and it is less susceptible to pests and diseases”.
Jens Eiken, global product manager, the beer division of International Flavors & Fragrances, said the cost of sorghum is lower than the cost of barley, which can help brewers to keep their prices low.
“Sorghum has a unique flavour that can be used to create different types of beer. Sorghum beers can have a sweeter, nuttier flavour than barley beers,” Eiken said at this year’s Africa Brewing Conference in Douala, Cameroon.
Darren Stegman, technical sales manager of Master Brewer, said countries with the highest sorghum production will be the beautiful bride of most European and German beer makers in the coming months.
“Nigeria is definitely a major attraction due to its production capacity; we need to do a lot of support in terms of research and development,” Stegman said.
Data sourced from Statista showed Nigeria is the second-highest producer of sorghum in the world with a production of 6.7 million metric tonnes annually. the United States is ahead with a production of 11.4 million metric tonnes.
BusinessDay’s findings showed Nigeria’s bulk of sorghum production is derived from the Northern Guinea and Sudan/Sahel ecologies of northern Nigeria.
The product is predominantly used by companies producing beverages, breakfast cereals, and confectionery, and a small percentage of the grain is also used as animal feed while its stalks are used to build shelters or fences and as livestock feed.
Data sourced from the National Bureau of Statistics showed from the first time since the country’s statistical agency started collating data, Nigeria exported N875 million sorghum seeds in the first quarter of 2023.
At its last pre-annual general meeting media parley, Hans Essaadi, CEO of Nigerian Breweries, said the company had been working with some institutes on trials for sorghum with higher yield varieties in northern Nigeria.
He said that the outcome of the trials was beneficial to farmers, adding that it would be made known soon.
Nigerian Breweries noted that its collaboration with relevant local and international research institutes will expand and improve the quality of sorghum varieties used in its local production.
“To increase the positive impact of local sourcing of its agricultural raw materials, the company has also continuously expanded its sorghum sourcing areas to new communities,” Nigerian Breweries said.
Mahmood Abubakar, Nigeria’s former minister of agriculture and rural development, said the country has been streamlining the existing sorghum varieties in a bid to improve productivity, value addition, and quality of sorghum produce.
“The exercise would enhance farmer’s income, attract more youth to sorghum cultivation, meet national demand as well as contribute to the growth of the gross domestic product,” Abubakar told journalists last year.
The minister pointed out that, “Recently sorghum crop assumed great industrial relevance such that many multi-national companies such as Breweries now use sorghum grits as adjuncts (up to 40%) to barley base (Mash) for making alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and breakfast cereals.”.
Speaking further, he noted that flour mills also use sorghum composited with wheat for flour which serves as main ingredient in the manufacturing of confectioneries and other food products which sorghum serves as one of the ingredients.