Sesame seed (sesame indicum L.) is Nigeria’s second most important non-oil export after cocoa. It is also known as Beniseed. Sesame seeds are prepared as food in different parts of the world.
Botanically, sesame seed belongs to the family of crops known as pedaliaceae, and its seeds contain about 50 percent oil of very high quality and 25 percent protein, based on past research studies. The crop is planted in tropical zones and dry habitats.
Consequently, it is a major cash earner in states such as Benue, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Nasarawa, Katsina, Plateau, Yobe and Cross River. In other words, the crop thrives in Guinea, Sudan and Sahel Savannah.
Between 2007 and 2012, sesame production rate has grown steadily. The yearly production data on sesame seeds lend credence to this. Nigerian farmers cultivated 76.5 million hectares of land in 2007 to produce 137.1 thousand tonnes of sesame seeds.
The hectares cultivated in 2008 increased to 80.6 million to generate 146.7 thousand tonnes of the seed. A total of 84.4 million hectares of land was cultivated in 2009 to produce 158.2 thousand tonnes of the produce. In 2010, Nigerian smallholder farmers cultivated 88.4 million hectares of land to produce 168 thousand tonnes of sesame seeds. Also in 2011 and 2012, Nigerian farmers cultivated 92.3 million and 96.2 million hectares of land to produce 179.6 thousand tonnes and 188.9 thousand tonnes of sesame
Looking at production per hectare in the aforementioned years, we observe that sesame seeds remained at 1.8 thousand tonnes
per hectare in 2007 and 2008. It crept up to 1.9 thousand tonnes per hectare in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
And it slightly went up to 2 thousand tonnes per hectare in 2012. In absolute terms, therefore, sesame production grew by 38 percent between 2007 and 2012, while in real terms it only increased by just 10 percent over the six-year period.
Non-oil export data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) show that the demand for
sesame seeds is steady. On the average, exporters earned N20.8 million from the sale of the produce overseas in Q1 2013. Hence, it was the fourth most important non-oil export items in that quarter.
The value rose to N28.1 million in Q2 2013 when it was the fifth most exported non-oil items.
Third-quarter result was fantastic as exporters made N40 million from sesame seeds, just as the produce occupied the same position where it was in the second quarter. It was the third most important item on the non-oil export list in Q4 2013 when exporters realised N43.7 million by selling the seeds overseas.
In 2012, Q2 export value was N21.5 million (fifth), just as the total values realised from export of the produce in Q3 2012 and Q4 2012 were N11 million (12th) and N21.8 million (seventh), respectively. In the last one and a half years, estimated annual production has risen to about 210,000 metric tonnes.
We have white, black and brown or mixed sesame seeds. In a nutshell, only the white and brown seeds are grown in Nigeria. The
white seeds are food grade and are used in the bakery and confectionery industry to produce meal, paste, confections and bakery products. It is commonly found in areas such as Keffi and Lafia in Nassarawa State, Makurdi in Benue State, and Taraba State. On the other hand, the brown or mixed sesame seeds are mainly oil grade. They can be found in Kano, Jigawa and Katsina States.
In naira per tonne, the price of sesame seeds fluctuated from an annual average of N94,706.7 in 2007 to a high of N173,998 in 2010 before it later retreated to about N107,000 in the last two years.
A total of 5,879 containers of sesame seeds were exported in 2012, while 5,509 containers left the shores of Nigeria in 2013.
In 2012, Spain was the largest importer of the seeds from Nigeria, having imported 1,693 containers in that year. It was displaced by Turkey in 2013, which imported 2,241 containers of sesame seeds from Nigeria.
Ten agro-allied firms exported the crop in 2011 and the number increased to 13 in 2012.