The U.S. Grains Council’s 2015/2016 Sorghum Harvest & Export Cargo Quality Report is designed to help international buyers of U.S. sorghum understand the quality of U.S. commodity sorghum as it enters the merchandising channel at harvest, and as it is assembled for export early in the marketing year. This report provides representative information about quality levels and variability at the point of origination, either at harvest or at export. The sampling at harvest time is referred to as the Harvest Survey, while the sampling of early exports is referred to as the Export Cargo Survey. Inbound, unblended commodity samples are collected at local grain elevators for the Harvest Survey, while export cargo samples of commodity sorghum are collected at key export areas for the Export Cargo Survey.
Abundant rains during the typical planting season occurred across most of the key 2015 sorghum production region, delaying planting progress. The wet conditions that persisted in the southern part of the growing area slowed vegetative development and increased nutrient loss. However, conditions in the northern part of the growing area changed from wet to dry, thereby shortening the grain fill period and accelerating maturity. Dry and warm conditions prevailed and hastened harvest progress across the 2015 U.S. sorghum production area.
Overall, this 2015/2016 Harvest Survey indicates the 2015 sorghum crop entered the 2015/2016 market channel, with average grade factor levels exceeding the standards for U.S. No. 1 grade sorghum. In addition, sorghum composition was in the typical range of sorghum levels found in literature, no noticeable tannin levels were found among the 207 Harvest Survey samples, and typical values were found for true density and kernel hardness.
This 2015/2016 Export Cargo Survey shows the 2015 sorghum crop entered the 2015/2016 export channel with average grade factor levels exceeding the standards for U.S. No. 1 grade sorghum. As with the harvest samples, sorghum composition was in the typical range of sorghum levels found in literature, no noticeable tannin levels were found, and typical values were found for true density and kernel hardness. This 2015/2016 Harvest Survey is based on 207 commodity sorghum samples taken from defined areas within nine of the top sorghum-producing and exporting states. Inbound samples were collected from local grain elevators to observe quality at the point of origin and to provide representative information about the variability of the quality characteristics across the diverse geographic regions.
The sampling areas in the nine states are divided into two general groupings that are labeled Harvest Areas (HAs). These two HAs are identified by:
- The Early Harvest Area, which consists of areas that typically harvest sorghum from the beginning of July through the end of September; and
- The Late Harvest Area, which consists of areas that typically harvest sorghum from the beginning of September through the end of November or later.
The sorghum harvest samples are proportionately stratified according to Agricultural Statistical Districts (ASDs) across the key 2015 sorghum-producing states. This is to ensure a sound statistical sampling of the U.S. sorghum crop at the first stage of the market channel. Harvest sample test results are reported at the U.S. Harvest Aggregate level and for the two HAs, providing a general perspective on the geographic variability of U.S. sorghum quality.
The quality characteristics of the sorghum identified at harvest establish the foundation for the quality of the grain ultimately arriving at the export customers’ doors. However, as sorghum passes through the U.S. marketing system, it is mingled with sorghum from other locations; aggregated into trucks, barges and railcars; stored; and loaded and unloaded several times. Therefore, the quality and condition of the sorghum change between the initial market entry and the export elevator. For these reasons, the 2015/2016 Harvest Survey part of this report should be considered carefully in tandem with the 2015/2016 Export Cargo Survey results that are also included in this report. As always, the quality of an export cargo of sorghum is established by the contract between buyer and seller, and buyers are free to negotiate any quality factor that is particularly important to them.
This 2015/2016 Export Cargo Survey is based on 182 commodity sorghum samples collected from sorghum export shipments as they underwent the federal inspection and grading process performed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS).
For the Export Cargo Survey, the key sorghumexporting areas in the United States are divided into two geographical groupings, which we refer to as Export Outlets (EOs). These EOs are identified by the two major pathways to export markets:
- The Texas EO includes export terminals along the Texas Gulf Coast, primarily League City (Houston Area) and Corpus Christi; and
- The NOLA EO comprises the export terminals near the Mississippi River Delta.
The Export Cargo Survey samples are proportionately stratified across the two EOs. Export sample test results are reported both at the U.S. Export Aggregate level and for the two EOs.
This report provides detailed information on each of the quality factors tested for both the harvest and export samples. This includes averages and standard deviations for the aggregate of all harvest and export samples, respectively, and for the two HAs and the two EOs. The “Harvest Quality Results” and “Export Quality Results” sections summarize the following quality factors:
- Grade Factors: test weight, broken kernels and foreign material (BNFM), foreign material, total damage, and heat damage
- Moisture Chemical Composition: protein, starch, oil, and tannins
- Physical Factors: kernel diameter, 1000-kernel weight (TKW), kernel volume, kernel true density, and kernel hardness index
- Mycotoxins: aflatoxins and DON
Details about the testing analysis methods used for this report are provided in the “Testing Analysis Methods” section.
The objective of the Harvest Survey and Export Cargo Survey was to obtain enough samples to estimate quality factor averages of the harvest and export samples with a relative margin of error (Relative ME) of less than ± 10% (a reasonable target for biological data such as these factors). Weighted averages and standard deviations following standard statistical techniques for proportionate stratified sampling were calculated for each of the quality factors. Details of the statistical sampling and analysis methods are presented in the “Harvest Survey and Statistical Analysis Methods” and “Export Cargo Survey and Statistical Analysis Methods” sections.
Along with an evaluation of the quality of the 2015 sorghum crop and early 2015/2016 exports, the 2015/2016 Sorghum Harvest & Export Cargo Quality Report includes an assessment of the crop and weather conditions during the 2015 growing season; U.S. sorghum production, usage and outlook; and a description of the U.S. sorghum export system.
This first year of sorghum harvest and export quality data will lay the foundation for evaluating trends and the factors that impact sorghum quality. In addition, the cumulative measurement surveys will increase in value by enabling export buyers and other stakeholders to begin making year-to-year comparisons and assessing patterns in sorghum quality based on growing, drying, handling, storage, and transport conditions.
The Export Cargo Survey does not predict the actual quality of any cargo or lot of sorghum after loading or at destination. It is important for all players in the value chain to understand their own contract needs and obligations, as many of the quality attributes, in addition to grade, can be specified in the buyer-seller contract. In addition, this report does not explain the reasons for changes in quality factors from the Harvest Survey to the Export Cargo Survey. Many factors, including weather, genetics, commingling, and grain drying and handling, affect changes in sorghum quality in complex ways. Sample test results can vary signifcantly depending on the ways in which a sorghum lot was loaded onto a conveyance and the method of sampling used.