Sesame Seeds - A Diamond In The Rough

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Monday, June 18, 2018 07:24AM /FDC 

There has been increased focus on the Agriculture sector as the government attempts to grow its non-oil revenue. Nigeria has an abundant variety of commodities growing on its land, which have the potential to generate revenue and foreign exchange for the government. One of such commodities is sesame seeds. 

Sesame seed is a cash crop with wide varieties in Africa. Based on its colour, it is classified into the white and brown varieties. The white grain (Food Grade) is used by bakeries for pastry garnishing and salad while the brown grain, often referred to as the oil grade, is used in the production of sesame oil. The four major states that produce this commodity in Nigeria are Taraba, Jigawa, Nasarawa and Benue. 

Nigeria is the largest producer of sesame seeds in Africa, and the third largest in the world, with about 580,000 tonnes produced in 2017. 90% of sesame seeds produced in Nigeria are exported. In Q1’18, it was the most exported non-oil commodity, contributing 0.57% to the total export value and 36.39% of agricultural exports.

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Sesame seeds present huge opportunities for Nigeria in terms of generating fiscal and export revenue. To take advantage of these opportunities and enhance its competitiveness, Nigeria needs to focus on improving processing and yields.

Sesame seeds- a golden opportunity? 

Sesame seeds present a huge opportunity for Nigeria because of several reasons. 

1.   The global demand for the commodity is on the increase, global sesame seed market is expected to grow at a 4.2% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2018-2024. Nigeria exports to China, Turkey, Japan, Vietnam and South Korea. The commodity has numerous health and industrial benefits and is widely used for baking, medicine, cosmetics and animal feeds. It also has a high oil content (44–60%). Considering its health benefits and the growing preference for organic foods, the demand is likely to continue to grow, which is positive for Nigeria. 

2.  In Nigeria, about 37.33% of the land area is arable13. This offers a solid foundation for the cultivation of the crop. The fact that sesame seeds are also drought-resistant and require little or no fertilizer makes them cheaper to cultivate. 

Challenges that can hinder production of sesame seeds 

Nigeria’s sesame production is not without its challenges; one of the major challenges is the lack of mechanized and modern farming techniques. Small-scale farmers use outdated skills and have limited access to finance and technology. This continues to inhibit local production. 

The yield per hectare in Nigeria is 0.5 – 1.0 tonnes; this is small compared to 1.4–1.6 tonnes per hectare in china14. This underperformance in yield is due to the knowledge gap and poor crop management practices adopted by small-holder farmers in Nigeria. Also, poor processing procedures are also affecting yields. 

In addition, Nigeria has only three functional processing plants for sesame seeds (two in Kano and one in Lagos). Aggregate processing capacity of the three plants is 300 tonnes, with each producing 100 tonnes15. The poor number of functional processing plants has affected the quality of the seeds, as most seeds are processed manually. For a country that produces over 1200 tonnes per day, manual sorting and processing of these seeds is inefficient. It has also affected the pricing of the two variants. 

White sesame seeds are more expensive as they are better processed than the brown variant. A tonne of white and brown sesame seeds is internationally sold for about $1,600 - $1,800 and $700/tonne - $1000/tonne respectively. Locally, a tonne of white sesame seed is sold for N340,000 while the brown is sold for N320,000.

How can Nigeria improve its sesame cultivation? 

To address these challenges, Nigeria needs to develop new, high yielding and disease-resistant seed varieties such as Kenana 44, which yields about 1tonne per hectare16. Also, further research into new and improved sesame farming techniques, and modern agronomy practices will improve crop yield and expand production. 

New processing plants are needed to improve the quality of sesame seeds produced and processed in Nigeria in order to meet international standards and help with better pricing. The manual sorting and processing technique has limited the use of sesame seeds to oil extraction and animal feed (the brown variant). 

This is because confectioneries and bakeries have specific seed requirements such as colour and flavour which the Nigerian sesame seeds do not meet as a result of poor processing17. For ex-ample, India has several large-scale processing plants and factories capable of processing up to 22,000 tonnes annually. 

Increased government focus and private sector participation would also help boost the revenue and foreign exchange that can be obtained from the production and export of this commodity. With a potential output of 1mn tonnes per annum, sesame seeds can be the next big thing for Nigeria in terms of agric exports.

Proshare Nigeria Pvt. Ltd.

Proshare Nigeria Pvt. Ltd.

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