MANHATTAN – A delegation of Kansas sorghum producers, led by the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA), traveled to China March 12-19, to promote coarse grains, assess current trends in the market, and assist with rolling out the 2015/16 corn and sorghum harvest quality reports.

“Average household incomes in China are growing, and the demand for animal proteins is increasing. These factors, along with limited arable land, create a reliance on imports from countries like the United States,” said KDA marketing director Kerry Wefald. “In 2015, Kansas farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses exported more than $403 million or 12 percent of total state agriculture exports to China. Of this total, $269 million were cereal grains.”

The group’s visit included briefings from the U.S. Grains Council, U.S. Embassy and USDA Foreign Agricultural Service in China along with stops at an agribusiness operation, dairy, feed mill and milk processing facility. These meetings gave the group a chance to learn more about the Chinese market and to establish business connections in China.

While in Jinan, Kansas sorghum producers Sarah Sexton-Bowser and Martin Kerschen presented their perspectives on sorghum production during the council’s rollout of the 2015/16 corn and sorghum quality reports.

The buyers and end users who were in attendance left the seminar with more information about the factors that affect U.S. crop quality, as well as increased confidence in their ability to purchase the quality grain they need from the U.S. and from Kansas in particular.

“The trade mission articulated the importance of market relationships. We visited several current and prospective sorghum customers. As Kansans we raise a high-quality product and appreciation for that quality was affirmed during our conversation,” said Sexton-Bowser, who is also the regional director for the United Sorghum Checkoff Program. “Additionally, the trade mission illustrated the vast market opportunities in China. Every visit brought sights of construction and growth. Through investment in relationships our quality sorghum will continue to be valued by Chinese end users.”

Kansas is the leading sorghum producer in the U.S. and China is a major market for Kansas sorghum farmers, making exports to China an important opportunity for growth for the Kansas sorghum industry.

The KDA is pleased to work with the U.S. Grains Council on cooperative ventures that can expand these markets for Kansas sorghum producers in the future.

The delegation traveling from Kansas included:

Lance Russell, Hays, Leadership Sorghum Class II graduateNathan Larson, Riley, Kansas Grain Sorghum Commission board memberSarah Sexton-Bowser, Holton, United Sorghum Checkoff Program regional directorMartin Kerschen, Garden Plain, United Sorghum Checkoff Program board directorPat Damman, Clifton, Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association & Commission directorGary Gantz, Ness City, National Grain and Feed Association directorKerry Wefald, Manhattan, Kansas Department of Agriculture director of agricultural advocacy

The trade mission was made possible by a State Trade and Export Program (STEP) grant, funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The STEP grant helps Kansas non-exporters get started and existing exporters to export more. Since the grant’s inception in 2012, more than 30 Kansas small businesses have participated and achieved $9.2 million in actual export sales, which supports the KDA’s vision to encourage economic growth of the agriculture industry and the Kansas economy.

For more details about the Kansas delegation’s trip to China or about future STEP grant opportunities, people can contact Kerry Wefald, (785) 564-6758 or Kerry.Wefald@agriculture.ks.gov.