Sorghum touted as export ‘superfood’

Sinethemba Mafanya, manager, Diageo Empowerment Trust SA

Sorghum has been singled out as a possible key player in helping Africa to realise its agricultural export potential.

“We have the lowest cereal yields in the world, and we imported basic grains worth $30 billion in 2011, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations,” said Sinethemba Mafanya, manager, Diageo Empowerment Trust SA.

“In today’s modern, rapidly urbanising Africa, sorghum is too often seen as the basis for traditional beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), and for porridges we associate with a traditional style of life. But that is only half the picture; like other traditional foodstuffs from around the world, sorghum can be used to create new products that appeal to modern palates and lifestyles—quick to cook, healthy and affordable.

“Think, for example, of the way in which the South American staple, quinoa, has been successfully recast as something between a superfood and a gourmet treat.”

Professor Riette de Kock, associate professor of sensory science, University of Pretoria, South Africa, said sorghum-based foods should be designed for specific purposes - for example for athletes or diabetics - as well as general food products adapted to modern tastes. A biscuit product is expected to be launched soon.

Educating consumers and policy-makers would be a critical task in building these new markets for sorghum, and attracting the necessary investment, said Mafanya.

The Diageo Empowerment Trust has identified sorghum farming as a key focus for its efforts to create new black-owned businesses.

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