A burgeoning global demand for sesame seed for hummus, toppings on sushi, health foods and confectionery, is boosting output in Nigeria and spurring expansion in the world’s third-biggest producer.
Production of the tiny seeds, easily recognisable on bread rolls, is expected to grow 40% in Nigeria in the 2017-18 season, according to Sheriff Balogun, president of the National Sesame Seed Association of Nigeria.
While current output ranges between 400,000 tonnes and 500,000 tonnes per season, “we should see a production of about 700,000 tonnes” with this year’s harvest, he said in an e-mailed response to questions.
Japan, with its sushi culture, was the leading destination of Nigerian sesame seed exports, according to Balogun, who said many farmers were responding to growing global demand to increase production of the grain. Other destinations include China as well as Europe and North America.
Nigeria is pushing for increased agricultural production and exports as part of President Muhammadu Buhari’s plan to steer the country away from dependence on hydrocarbons. Nigeria fell into its worst economic slump in 25 years in 2016 after the output and price of oil, its main export, plunged.
Support for growers
The government has pledged a 5-billion naira ($14m) funding support to help growers increase their farms and obtain improved seeds, according to Balogun.” We have a five-year development plan which seeks to increase production to about 2-million tonnes per year,” by 2022, he said.
Rising global demand is estimated to outstrip output, currently estimated at more than 6-million tonnes per year, by 10% in 2018 “due to the adverse climatic conditions in major producing and exporting countries”, according to Jaison Davis, lead agriculture analyst at India-based Mordor Intelligence.
Demand is being boosted by increasing use of sesame seed in confectionery and preference of its oils for presumed “health benefits”, he said.
More farmers are adopting the crop because they see its export as a means of earning foreign exchange at a time Nigeria’s local currency has depreciated against the dollar, according to Lateef Adekoya, a local buying-agent based in Lagos, the commercial capital. Farm-gate prices have risen 20% in the past year to 275,000 naira per tonne, he said.
Sesame seed is currently Nigeria’s top raw agricultural export, while cocoa, which is classified separately because of initial processing, remains the leading nonoil export, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.