Three containers, or about 60 tons, of U.S. sorghum are in Saudi Arabia and ready for the commercial poultry feeding trial that the U.S. Grains Council is helping set up.

Alvaro Cordero, USGC manager for international operations, is in Saudi Arabia with Craig Coon, a poultry nutritionist from the University of Arkansas, to work with Arasco, the largest feed mill operator in Saudi Arabia.

“Once the trials wrap up, we’ll share the results with the feed and poultry industries and government officials so they can better understand the feeding value of U.S. sorghum,” Cordero said.

He explained that in Saudi Arabia, the government subsidizes feed grains — but the subsidy varies from grain to grain. The country is the largest importer of barley in the world, he said, but when global grain prices spiked in 2006-07, the government began to look at other grains in order to diversify its needs. Subsidy levels, however, continue to vary and are not always on par with the value of the grain.

“In the past, they had two different subsidy levels for sorghum, one for higher protein, like sorghum from the United States, and another for lower protein sorghum,” Cordero said. “Currently, though, there is just one and it is well below the subsidy for similar feed grains, making sorghum uncompetitive in the market.”

By conducting the trial, the Council aims to demonstrate the feeding value of U.S. sorghum to Saudi Arabian feed manufacturers, livestock producers and the government, which may then treat the feed grain on a more equitable basis.

Forentino Lopez, marketing director for the United Sorghum Checkoff Program, said the feeding trial is similar to one organized by the Council that is currently under way with poultry producers in Egypt.

“U.S. sorghum is an excellent feed grain, but is at a market disadvantage right now,” Lopez said. “We hope sound production data at commercial farms in Saudi Arabia helps demonstrate its value in rations and eventually levels the playing field. Doing so would create more market opportunities for U.S. sorghum producers.”