Grain sorghum is the fifth most important cereal crop grown in the world today, after rice, wheat, maize and barley. It grows in harsh environments where other crops do not grow well. It is grown on 42 million hectares in 98 countries of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. Nigeria is the world's largest producer of grain sorghum followed by the United States and India. Mexico, Sudan, China and Argentina are also major producers, and Mauritania, Gambia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger, Somalia, Yemen, Chad, Sudan, Tanzania and Mozambique also produce significant quantities. It is usually grown without application of any fertilizers or other inputs by a multitude of small-holder farmers in many of these countries. Leading exporters include the United States, Australia and Argentina; with Mexico as the largest importer.
The crop has for centuries been one of the most important staples for millions of rural people in the semi-arid tropics of Asia and Africa. For many impoverished regions of the world, it remains a principal source of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals.
Sorghum grain is mostly used for human food, 55 % of the output consumed in the form of flat breads, porridges and other food preparations. It is the dietary staple of more than 500 million people in more than 30 countries.
In addition to being a human staple, sorghum is used as fodder for poultry and cattle. Sorghum stover is an important source of dry season maintenance rations for livestock, especially in Asia; and also an important feed grain, especially in the Americas. It is also used in brewing applications.
Sweet sorghum has been widely cultivated for use in sweeteners, primarily in the form of sorghum syrup, particularly in the United States. In India, and other places, sweet sorghum stalks are used for producing bio-fuel by squeezing the juice and then fermenting it into ethanol.
Sorghum cultivation in Africa faces a wide range of harsh and highly variable environments. Local varieties are specifically adapted to their biotic and abiotic constraints and have an excellent grain quality but with low yield potentials.