THE Department of Agriculture (DA) hopes to expand land planted to sorghum to 200,000 hectares by early 2020, as it views the grain to be highly suited to Philippine conditions.

Sorghum is one of the five most important cereal crops in the world together with rice, wheat, maize, and barley. It also performs well in hot and dry regions due to its ability to withstand drought and heat.

The United States is the largest producer of sorghum, with output of 480 million bushels in 2016.

“The Department of Agriculture is embarking on a program to increase the production of feed grains by targeting 200,000 hectares to be planted to sorghum by the First Quarter of 2020,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said in a social media post.

The production of sorghum is expected to supplement the corn crop, for which prices have been rising, in order to contain costs for the feed industry.

Target areas for the sorghum program are areas currently planted to coconut, where it can be introduced as a secondary crop, as well in ancestral domain areas, and land currently plated to upland rice.

The United States for hybrid seed and India for open pollinated variety (OPV) are being considered as suppliers, the DA said.

“Sorghum which was introduced to the Philippines about 40 years ago, but never really gained popularity as a source of protein for animals because of the absence of support from government. Studies show, however, that sorghum has a higher protein content than corn and is tolerant to long dry spells needing only 35% of the water needed by corn,” he noted.

“The sorghum program will be supported by a loan program of the DA’s Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC), the Agriculture and Fisheries Machinery and Equipment (AFME) Loaning Program which extends loans at 2% to poultry and livestock growers to establish their own village-level feed mills,” he said.

The supply of pork is expected to be tight next year following the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF), which has greatly affected the hog industries of China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and parts of Europe. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang