ZIMBABWEAN farmers could generate sustainable revenue from growing and exporting sesame oil seed.
The cash crop is one of the high value agricultural produce that could add impetus to exports under the sector and help generate the much needed forex for the economy.
The country’s trade and export promotion agency, ZimTrade, said sesame oil seed is a low hanging fruit that can drive exports from farmers across the country, given the good climatic conditions, which can promote abundant supply of grain, tobacco, fruits, vegetables and other produce.
“There is need for farmers to diversify their crops, focusing on niche produces that can be value added into different high-end products.
“One of these crops is sesame seeds, which is fast becoming the cash crop for some economies in Africa,” said ZimTrade.
The agency said sesame plants grow to a mature height of up to a metre and harvesting can occur between 100 and 130 days after planting.
“Sesame varieties are suitable for a range of soils, but generally prefer fertile and well-drained soil in warmer climates.
“The seed is one of the oldest oilseed crops and is mainly produced in Asia and Africa, which together account for more than 90 percent of global production,” said ZimTrade.
Statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) indicate that the world production of sesame seed in 2017 was around 5,5 million tonnes with most of it grown in Africa and Asia.
Global demand for sesame seed has risen as the product gains momentum as a health aiding food.
Figures from Trade Map show that world exports of sesame seed last year amounted to US $3,07 billion up from US $2,7 billion in 2018 and US $2,2 billion in the prior year.
“Of this, Zimbabwe’s share of the export market was a paltry US$85 000, an indication that more needs to be done to grow exports of sesame seeds,” said ZimTrade.
In addition to its unique and increasingly popular flavour, ZimTrade said sesame seed was widely used in the production of dietary supplements, oils, confectionaries, pastes and health snacks.
“The diverse uses of sesame, from direct consumption as food to an ingredient in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products, makes it a high-value product in regional and international markets,” said ZimTrade.
At present, the trade and development agency said the low recognition of sesame seed as a viable crop for Zimbabwe is likely due to the lack of knowledge on the farming methods, benefits, and potential markets of the crop.
“Increased awareness to consumers on the benefits of sesame seed and support to farmers on production and marketing will enable the more than 1 200 small-scale farmers currently producing sesame to increase production.”
To encourage local production, Government could consider improving policies, incentives and restrictions to encourage producers and exporters alike to invest in the production and export of value-added products.
Already, Government is targeting 100 000 tonnes of sesame crop during the 2020/21 summer farming season.
“Production of the crop is being targeted at cotton growers and spearheaded by Cottco (Cotton Company),” said ZimTrade.
According to FAO, the growing world’s population, changing consumption patterns and health awareness of consumers are some of the reasons that has led to a boom in sesame market.
Major exporters of the crop last year were Sudan (US$606 million), India (US$529 million), Ethiopia (US$332 million), Nigeria (US$289 million) and Tanzania (US$189 million).
The largest importers last year were China (US$1.2 billion), Japan (US$303 million), Turkey (US$267 million), India (US$196 million), Korea (US$145 million) and Israel (US$119 million).
Countries where sesame is an integral part of their national cuisines have reported increased imports of the product.
Projections are that the global sesame seed market will reach US$17,77 billion by 2025. Global sesame production is forecast to reach 9,26 million tonnes by 2040, up from 5,53 million tonnes in 2017. The demand for sesame in China alone is expected to reach 2,56 million tonnes in 2040, up from 1,3 million tonnes in 2016.