Researchers from the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC), the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, and the Functional Grains Centre at Charles Sturt University have teamed up to identify the quality and varieties of sorghum to produce baijiu for China.

Funded by AEGIC and the Grains Research and Development Corporation, the study will focus on gaining a better understanding of sorghum grain in high-quality baijiu production.

Baijiu is China’s national drink and one of the world’s top-selling spirits. Sorghum is a key ingredient.

The study will be carried out in eight locations within five Australian provinces.

Austrade's trade commissioner in Chengdu Christina Goodman said: ‘Quality baijiu is a premium product, with the most expensive bottles valued at hundreds of thousands of yuan.

"Quality baijiu is a premium product, with the most expensive bottles valued at hundreds of thousands of yuan."

“Taste and reputation are key to market share and top Chinese manufacturers' value consistent, quality supply.

“While Australia’s clean, green reputation and ability to supply counter-seasonal products are well known, it’s challenging to differentiate Australian products and maintain market share in bulk commodity markets. The Australian research will help narrow down the specific attributes of sorghum that could contribute to high-quality baijiu.”

Austrade has 10 offices across China and is backing the research by providing introductions to Chinese spirit manufacturers.

Prepared in China for more than 5,000 years, baijiu is one of the most widely consumed liquors in the world, making up one third of the world’s total liquor output. The market is worth an estimated $23bn annually.

Baijiu is primarily distilled from fermented sorghum. Australian sorghum exports peaked in 2015 at over $500m.

Image: Sorghum is a key ingredient in baijiu drink. Photo: Courtesy of Larry Rana, USDA