Port of Brownsville Offers New Opportunities for Sorghum Growers


A new  grain operating facility located in the Port of Brownsville will offer sorghum farmers in the area new market options for their grain. In 2016, the Coastal Bend and Rio Grande Valley regions of Texas harvested 42 million bushels of grain sorghum accounting for 37 percent of all Texas production and 8 percent of the national production. The main market for sorghum growers in these regions is exports with a majority of grain shipped overseas to China. The new facility will offer added export markets to local growers.

West Plains, LLC, recently made the move to Brownsville, Texas, taking over a 3 million bushel capacity grain elevator at the Port of Brownsville. As an agricultural commodity trading business, the decision to move south was an easy one due to the grain-handling capacity and proximity to highways, rail lines and vessel loading operations of the facility. With the newly renovated grain elevator, West Plains will have a total of 25 grain facilities and a grain-handling capacity of 33 million bushels, and producers will have another option on where to market their grain.

"Brownsville is a really important location for the company," said West Plains Texas location manager Cesar Ramirez. "This is a facility that needs to handle multiple commodities to make it work, and we are open to trade more than one commodity and load vessels where we can have two or three commodities."

Sorghum is one of the main commodities of interest to West Plains, and they hope to expand the grain trading options for local producers. While sorghum grain from the region is traditionally shipped to China and easily trucked down to Mexico, the new facility will offer market opportunities in different countries due to their loading capabilities.

"We can load 1,600 metric tons of grain an hour onto vessels, easily loading a Panamax ship in four days at a rate of 10,000 metric tons per day," Ramirez said. "We can load almost any vessel you need."

The West Plains facility is currently undergoing renovations, but they have plans in place to fill export orders for the 2017 harvest season. The facility recently hosted a team of Chinese sorghum buyers, facilitated by the Sorghum Checkoff and U.S. Grains Council where they were able to witness the facility's storing and loading capacity and learn about price, container, and logistics options for exporting grain.

Located in a region representing one-third of sorghum grain production for the state, the Brownsville facility is an added opportunity for market access and growth potential for the surrounding area, catering to the needs of sorghum producers and importers from across the globe. More information on the capabilities of the facility and West Plains's operations can be found on their website.

port of brownsville

Photo Credit: West Plains, LLC