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Researchers examine new role for Aussie sorghum

More than just a pretty face - one of Australia’s favourite summer crops - sorghum - could soon be the key ingredient in one of China’s favourite sprits.

The Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC) is part of a group of researchers looking at new opportunities for Australian sorghum – primarily as an ingredient in the world’s most popular alcoholic spirit – baijiu.

Pronounced “bye-joe” or “bye-jee-oh” baijiu is a traditional Chinese spirit and makes up one-third of the world’s total liquor output. As an industry it is worth an estimated $23 billion annually.

Baijiu is a distinctive white spirit with an alcohol content of between 40-60%. It is distilled mainly from sorghum that has been fermented in pits or earthenware jars.  The spirit has a history dating back centuries and is a central part of Chinese culture and tradition.

AEGIC with the University of Queensland (through the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) and the Functional Grains Centre at Charles Sturt University, are examining opportunities for increasing the value of Australian sorghum by enhancing its baijiu properties.

During 2013 China did not import any significant volumes of sorghum but by 2016 China was importing up to 10 million tonnes annually for animal feed and baijiu production.

The majority of imported sorghum 8 million tonnes (mt) was sourced from the United States, while about 1.6mt came from Australia. Most of the sorghum sourced from Australia was used for animal feed.

With support from Austrade China, research is being carried out in China with key baijiu manufacturers in an effort in improve Australia’s understanding of the quality attributes required for the manufacture of baijiu.

The results of this work will be extended to the Australian grains industry later this year.

A summer crop - sorghum is grown in northern New South Wales and Queensland mainly for animal feed.

Fore more information, please refer to the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre website, "World’s most popular liquor could offer opportunity for Australian sorghum".

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