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Black Sesame Seed Plant (image courtesy


Sesame (Sesamum indicum L) is an annual flowering plant which is cultivated for its seeds, grows in pods and is believed to be the oldest cultivated oilseed in the world. Although with a doubtful origin, it is widely believed to have originated from Africa. Sesame is often called by different names based on the location, some of its common names are Benniseed, Gingilly, Simsim, Tahini, and Til. Sesame was introduced to Nigeria after the Second World War and was mostly cultivated as a minor crop in the Northern and Central part of Nigeria until 1974 when it began to gain prominence as a major cash crop. Although sesame cultivation is on the increase in terms of areas cultivated, its full potential is yet to be explored in Nigeria due to lack of local farmers adherence to best farm practices suitable to its growth.                                                      


Sesame ranks eighth in the world production of edible oil seeds, with higher oil content than other oilseed crops. It is grown mainly for its seeds that contain approximately 50% oil and 25% protein. The presence of some antioxidants (sesamum, sesamolin, and sesamol) makes the oil one of the most stable vegetable oils in the world. In addition to having high oil content. Sesame seed is known for its nutritional and medicinal qualities. The seed contains all essential amino acids and fatty acids and it is a good source of vitamins (pantothenic acid and vitamin E) and minerals such as calcium (1450 mg/100g) and phosphorous (570 mg/100g).   

Cultivation and Suitable Farm Practices for Optimal Performance of Sesame in Nigeria

The potential for sesame cultivation in Nigeria is very high as an estimated 3.5 million hectares of the country’s agricultural land are suitable for the production of sesame seed. Sesame seed should be cultivated on a fairly flat and well-drained loam or loamy soil with a pH range of 5.5-6.7 and at a soil depth of 1.5-2.5cm, depending on the ecological zone, planting should be done between March/April to Mid July/ August. Planting on flatbed should be with inter-row and intra-row spacing of 60cm x 10 cm at a seed rate of 4 kg/ha when drilling or 5 kg/ha when broadcasting. Constant weeding should be carried out for the first 25 days after planting as young seedlings are poor competitors with seed. Thinning should be done three weeks after planting (WAP) to about 2 plants per stand along the roll. This is for optimal maintenance and to avoid problems associated with high density.

Cultivars of Sesame Seed adapted to Nigeria.

For optimal performance and yield in Nigeria, five cultivars of sesame seed are advocated for use. They are namely

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%

Yandev-55 with a potential yield of 600 kg/ha and 45%

Pest and Diseases

Sesame seed like most plant comes under attack by diseases and pest, sesame seed is often attacked by insects, nematodes, fungi, bacteria and weed. Most of these attacks can cause a great reduction in yield and quality. Common diseases of the sesame seed are: Cercospora sesame which causes leaf rot, Fusarium sp which causes leaf rot, collar rot, and sudden death e.t.c.

Controlling the diseases can be done by firstly verifying the extent to which the damage has being done, then applying suitable remedies.

Harvesting and processing

Harvesting and processing are key aspects of cultivation as it has a bearing on the yield and quality of the seed. Hence, Sesame seed is best harvested when 50% of its capsules turns yellow, delaying harvesting might result in seed shattering and loss. Manual harvesting is currently being practised in Nigeria whereby the stem is being cut with a sickle in order to prevent contamination with soil. 70% percent of the sesame seed grown are exported as seed because there is no major processing facility for oil extraction. Locally consumed sesame seed are processed by different manual means.

Uses and By-product of Sesame

The use of the sesame seed are wide and varied, and are dependent on the parts of the seed being processed. These are some of the uses and by-product of the sesame seed.

The sesame seed is used in confectioneries, biscuits and in bread making.

Oil extracts from sesame seed has a wide range of application; it is used for cooking, used in medicine for treating ulcer and burns, used in making aerosols and in manufacturing margarine.

Also, low-grade oil is used locally in manufacturing soap paints, lubricants, and illuminants.

The by-product gotten from processing sesame seed is used in making animal feeds.

Beyond these listed applications, sesame is also used in different countries for their local dishes and delicacies.

Advantages and reasons to grow sesame

Sesame is one of the most versatile crops that can be grown in dry arid regions.

It has unique attributes that can fit most cropping systems. ƒ

It is an easy crop to consider producing because equipment used for other crops can be used to grow sesame. ƒ

Sesame is more profitable with limited resources than other crops using the same level of resources.

It offers more return for less cost (less risk) than other crops.

A first-time grower can easily experiment with sesame because of the low input requirements without risking too much.

sesame seed

Sesame Seed (image courtesy

Opportunities for Investment in Sesame in Nigeria

In 2013, 4.8 million metric tonnes of sesame seed was harvested with the lead producer being Myanmar, but as at 2012 Nigeria only harvested 158,000 metric tonnes. Although Nigeria became the biggest exporter of sesame to Japan (the largest importer of sesame) in 2001, the full potential of sesame cultivation in Nigeria is yet to be achieved.|There are two major opportunities for sesame seed cultivation in Nigeria and they are:

Cultivation of sesame seed for export purposes: about 118,000 metric tonnes of sesame seed was exported in 2012, making it the third largest products Nigeria exported in 2012. With sesame seed still in demand globally and with vast areas of land suitable for its cultivation. Sesame seed is a viable investment opportunity.

Processing facilities: currently, the sesame market in Nigeria has few cleaning facilities and no de-hulling facility. A processing plant will help make seeds meet international standards and help with pricing.

Available Markets

Nigeria exports 70% of its sesame seed to Japan but according to FAO, sesame seed is imported into over 100 countries ( with particular emphasis on Asian countries), thus creating a vast and untapped market for Nigerian sesame seeds.

Financial Implication

In 2010, Nigeria exported 140,850 metric tonnes of sesame seed grossing an income of $139,000,000, considering the fact that sesame cultivation in Nigeria is a small holder affair, there is a huge potential for farmers, who know what they are doing to make a lot of money from investing in Sesame seed cultivation.

Constraints and Challenges of Cultivating of Sesame Seed in Nigeria

Although sesame cultivation is a business worth venturing into, it does have some challenges which can pose a threat to the unprepared. They are as follows;

Its yield per hectare is small when compared to other oilseed.

Absence of proper processing plants that can enhance the quality of seeds, especially for export.

Commodity pricing can be unpredictable and prone to fluctuations.

Sesame seed cultivated in Nigeria is limited to only oil extraction and animal feed once exported because confectionary and bakery users have specific seed attributes and requirement such as colour and flavour which the Nigerian sesame seed does not meet.





Balasubramaniyan, P. and S.P. Palaniappan. 2001. “Field Crops: An Overview”. In:Principles  and Practices of Agronomy. Agrobios, India

Burden D (2005). Sesame Profile. http//www.cropprofile.mht.Accessed on 26/8/2009.

Chemonic (2002). Overview of the Nigerian sesame industry. A paper prepared by  Chemonic International Incorporation for United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Washington D.C.

FAO. 2012. “Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nation”. FAOSTAT Database available online  http://faostat (28.08.2013).  

National Agricultural Extension And Research Liaison Services Federal Ministry Of Agriculture And Water Resources Ahmadu Bello University, “Beniseed production and utilisation in Nigeria”. In: Extension Bulletin No. 154 Horticulture Series No.5. Zaira.

U.A. Umar, A.H. Muntaqa, M.B. Muhammad and H.J. Jantar (2014). “Review of Sesame Seed Production and Export in Nigeria (2003 to 2012). In :The Pacific Journal of Science and Technology.



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