Sesame seed, also known as benni-seed is an annual flowering, drought tolerant crop which grows in pods, renowned for its edible and highly nutritional value and considered by agronomists as the oldest oilseed crop known to humanity.
The seed is notable for its diverse resourcefulness and essential derivatives depending on the processing method being utilised and the purpose. It is a highly utilised product in the industrial and pharmaceutical sectors and one of the basic ingredients in the production of biscuits, soaps, medicines, paints, lubricants, cosmetics, margarine and confectionery. Its oil extracts also consist of a wide range of applications that includes, hair treatment, cooking oil, disinfectant amongst others. The by-product processed from the seed also plays an important role in animal feed production.
Healthline Media, a reputable provider of health information highlighted over 15 health and nutrition benefits of the sesame seeds including; good source of fiber in reducing risks of heart diseases, obesity and type 2 diabetes; cholesterol and triglycerides control; nutritious source of plant protein; good source of vitamin B; blood sugar control, increase antioxidant activity in the blood; reduce joint and arthritic knee pain; aid hormone balance during menopause among other health beneficial uses.
Nigeria’s production capacity
Considering its drought-resistant nature and adaptability to climatic conditions, the sesame crop is regarded as one of the most suitable crops for cultivation in Nigeria, especially in the northern region which experiences little rain. The crop is currently grown in about 26 states of the country with Benue, Jigawa, Nasarawa and Taraba recognised as the largest producers. Other major producers include; Borno, Gombe, Kano,
A 2019 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) indicated that Nigeria’s production averaged 588,334 metric tonnes and was ranked fourth largest producer of sesame seeds in the world behind Tanzania (663,935 metric tonnes), India (755,346 metric tonnes) and Myanmar (785,038 metric tonnes). The FAO also ranked Nigeria as the third highest sesame exporter behind India and Myanmar.
Economic value and prospects
The sesame seed as reported by the FAO, has an export value of $1.81 billion. In 2020, despite market setbacks triggered by the covid-19 pandemic, India generated $448.6 million (24.83 per cent of global export) , Myanmar gained $300.2 (16.61 per cent of global export) while Nigeria amassed $195 million (10.8 per cent of global export) to emerge dominant exporters of the lucrative crop. In the same year, sesame seeds toppled cocoa to record the highest export revenue among the major agro-food commodities exported by Nigeria in 2020. A summation of quarterly trade reports in 2020 as released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), pointed that Nigeria exported sesame seeds worth N98.27 billion followed by cocoa’s N87.44 billion export revenue. The two agro-commodities accounted for over 60 per cent of the N321.5 total revenue generated from agricultural exports in the year under review.
In his assertion of the sesame production and export business, Hussaini Ibrahim, director general of the Raw Materials Research development Council (RMRDC), an agency under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMARD), stated that Nigeria earned $123.3 million from the export of sesame seed in 2016 alone but averred that the commodity has the potential of earning between 500 million dollars and one billion dollars annually if value addition is increasingly prioritised and intensified efforts in improved processing and yields are intentionally implemented.
Commenting on the market value of the crop, Ibrahim disclosed that it contains 50.5 per cent oil and 25 per cent protein and is highly valued by pharmaceuticals and industries across the world as it is an essential content in the production of medicine, lubricants, paints,
“All one needs is between N60,000 and N70,000 to cultivate a hectare of sesame seed, with a guarantee of N200,000 returns on the investment,” he added.
Dalha Hamza, a sesame farmer in Roni, Jigawa State affirmed that the seed is among the most commercially viable crop critical to the agricultural economy of Nigeria, especially at a period the country is seriously considering economic diversification projects set to be championed by agro-commodities.
Asides being in high demand in several countries of the world including; Australia, Brazil, China, France,
During a 2020 global sesame conference held in China, commodity experts and industry players disclosed that the sales and demand of sesame seeds recorded a 50 per cent rise in online supermarkets and stores (E-commerce) purchases between January-June 2020. They further predicted an increase in demand of the sesame due to an increased crave for healthy food and a healthy lifestyle which are associated with the crop.
Analysts posit that the massive economic potentials of the sesame seed industry creates an opportunity for Nigerian sesame seed producers, marketers and other stakeholders in the value chain to focus on increased productivity, strengthen its market relevance as well as present higher opportunities for Nigeria to increase its production value in the global market while competition to meet soaring demand gets tougher among major producing countries.
Challenges in Nigeria’s sesame production and value chain
Despite the economic relevance of the sesame seed, failure to attract the needed attention, implementations and structure to encourage massive production have to a large extent, inflicted some cracks on the seeds’ economic potential. Dwelling on this, Hamza, who has been garnered over six years of experience in sesame seed production noted that the crop’s production has been hindered by poor transportation infrastructure to facilitate movement of the crop from production areas to market areas, multiple taxation imposed on producers and marketers, and insufficient sesame processing plants in the country, lack of access to credit facilities to enable farmers purchase production implements. He further lamented that the crop is yet to receive any significant support from the CBN-facilitated Anchor Borrowers Programmes (ABP) which, according to him, would encourage participation of more farmers and make access to credit facilities readily available.
Fakunle Aremu, an agricultural economist and research analyst, highlighted poor knowledge of export rules and procedures by some of the sesame value chain actors, inadequate processing facilities and the low number of functional processing plants as challenges in the sesame seed production sector. Aremu further averred that these challenges have affected the quantity of seeds produced as many of the seeds are processed manually, resulting in negative implications on the pricing of the commodity especially at the international market where quality seeds are required to meet market value.
On his part, Mutairu Mamudu, president, National Sesame Seed Association of Nigeria (NSSAN) identified lack of technical expertise to process the seeds and insufficient finance, as impediments to availability of processing plants.
“To establish a sesame oil company company is a capital-intensive project and the process of obtaining loans from banks will always discourage one. We don’t have the system where you will submit the feasibility study of your project and get approval within the shortest time,” he bemoaned.
Positioning the sesame sector towards improved production/exportation/Dalha Industrial analysts opine that increased government participation and support in the sesame production industry as well as a more defined and active public-private partnership would help facilitate the production, processing, marketing, exportation and all other prominent operations beneficial to the expansion of the crop.
Speaking on behalf other sesame farmers, Hamza called for the inclusion of sesame farmers in agricultural advancement and economic diversification projects such as the Anchor Borrowers Programme. He further easy access to certified and improved seed varieties and provision of farm implements and mechanised tools at subsidised rates to boost farming techniques.
Aremu recommended more defined public-private partnership on massive sesame production and processing with an organised market structure along the value chain, technical skills and capacity buildings in good agricultural practice, post-harvest management, quality standards, export management and other development activities applicable to each value chain. The agricultural economist also recommended further research and deployment of new and improved sesame farming techniques as well as modern agronomy practices to encourage improved crop yield and expand production.