Sesame seeds are one of the highly sought after cash crops in Nigeria. It is second to cocoa in terms of export value. In fact 90% of the sesame seed produced in the country is exported abroad. The reason for the popularity of sesame seeds is due to its numerous health and industrial benefits. Also, the seed has a higher oil content compared to other oilseed crops.
Sesame oil which is extracted from the seeds is useful in the cosmetic industries for producing body lotions and creams. This oil is also used in the production of canned sardine, corned beef, margarine and soaps. It is also in high demand in bakeries, confectioneries, paint and pharmaceutical industries. Additionally, the by-products of sesame seeds can be used to make animal feeds.
In terms of health benefits, if you’re in search of a vegetable oil with little or no cholesterol, then sesame seed oil is also an excellent alternative. Sesame oil is rich in vitamins, particularly vitamin E and pantothenic acid. It is also an excellent source of essential amino acids, fatty acids, calcium and phosphorus.
Globally, over 4.8 million tonnes of sesame seeds are produced annually. Nigeria has the capacity to meet this production rate yet the country produces just a little over 300 000 tonnes annually. This volume makes Nigeria the second largest producer of sesame seeds in Africa and the seventh in the world.
Currently, there are 26 sesame-growing states in Nigeria; some of these include Ebonyi, Delta, Jigawa, Bauchi, Nassarawa, Benue and Taraba. The market for sesame seeds is quite vast with Japan and China as the major importers of these seeds. Countries like Turkey, India, Poland and Netherlands have also traded with Nigeria in the past.
If you’re looking to start a sesame plantation, there are several things you should know and we’ve put together a step by step guide in this article. However, one of the first questions you might be asking is – which is the best state for sesame farming?
Well, the sesame plant is a versatile crop that thrives quite well in the Northern part of Nigeria due to its drought resistant ability. Notwithstanding, it also grows in some other parts of the country like the South East and South South zones of the country. However, too much rainfall can adversely affect the yield. Overall, one of the best states for starting your venture would be Taraba State. This region has two farming cycles with harvest in August and October respectively. But you would need to access the data from Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) to enable you make an informed decision.
Your next question should be – where can I get sesame seeds of the best quality for planting?
Currently, there are five cultivars of sesame seeds that have been advocated for optimal performance and yield. These are the NCRIBEN O1m (530-6-10) with a potential yield of 1000 kg/ha and oil content of 45%; NCRIBEN-O2M Type 4with a potential yield of 750 kg/ha and oil content 45%; NCRIBENO-31 (Goza-25) with a potential yield of 600 kg/ha and oil content of 40% ;E8 with a potential yield of 1000 kg/ha and oil content of 50% and Yandev-55 with a potential yield of 600 kg/ha and 45%.
After selecting the right seeds the next step is to plant your seeds. At this point, it is expected that the land has been prepared adequately. Ideally, the planting season is often dependent on the ecological zone, but most times, it is between March and August. Sesame thrives best in loamy soil with a pH of 5.5-6.7. Planting can be done in ridges using a mechanical planter. The planting should be spaced in rows of 60 cm by 10 cm. Also, you can also broadcast the seeds on the plain land. Approximately 4-5kg of sesame seeds is needed per hectare. Generally, a hectare of land will produce 1-1.5 tonnes of sesame seed per year.
It is very important you monitor your planting process because the sesame plant is quite susceptible to diseases and pest. These include insects, nematodes, fungi, bacteria and weeds and these infestations generally reduce the yield and quality of the harvest.
Also, constant weeding should be carried out for the first 25 days after planting as young seedlings are easily choked by the yet-to-germinate seeds. Another important activity is thinning which should be done three weeks post planting. It should be maintained at 2 plants per stand along each roll. This helps to prevent problems of high density.
Sesame takes approximately 4-5 months to reach maturity. The seeds are harvested when 50% of its capsules turn yellow. If you delay harvest, seeds may be too fragile leading to shattering and loss of yield. A sickle is used to cut the stem. Generally, the process of harvesting and processing sesame in Nigeria is a manual one.
As stated earlier, the market for sesame seeds is quite large and you don’t have to ponder whether your seeds will be needed. Apart from the Asian and European countries that import these seeds, the Middle East is also fast becoming an import destination. Countries like UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are showing an increasing demand for this product. However, you’ll have find out the process of exporting your seeds by visiting the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC). This ensures that you have the best information to work with.
One of the many advantages of sesame is that it is more profitable when compared to other crops using the same level of resources. In fact, as a first timer planter, you can experiment with the seeds because you don’t need as much resources to start up.
However, when compared to other oil seeds, the tonne generated per hectare is lower. This is why you should be ready to set aside several hectares of agricultural land for the project on the long term. You may use 1 hectare to test the process after which you can proceed planting at a large scale.