The rise and rise of Sesame Exports

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By Chinyemike Torti

Given the robust cross boarder trading activity posted on sesame seed within the last few years it is safe to aver that, after cocoa beans; sesame is poised to carve a niche for itself in the heroic book of export success. During the previous, trading season Nigeria earned around $50 million accruing from over 50,000 tons of sesame seed exports; to Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Syria, Netherlands, UK, Singapore etc. With market demand leapfrogging from China and other sundry European countries, the central bank of Nigeria cash register scooped over $50 million in the season under review. According to projections from deep industry sources it is estimated that within the next 3-4 years over $750 million dollars will fall on our laps, via sesame exports trading activities.

Nigeria is the second largest producer of the crop in Africa after Sudan. Given the potentialities of the sesame belt in Nigeria it is expected to hit 1 million tons. The sesame seed plant is an annual with a branched stem that grows to a height of 0.6 1.2m (2-4 feet). The small seeds vary in size up to 3.5 mm (1/8 inch). Color may range from yellowish white to red, brown and black. Hulled sesame is pearly white and has a rich, nut-like flavor when roasted. Hulling or decorticating is the process of removing the outer husk. India, Mexico, Nicaragua, Sudan, Guatemala, Venezuela, China, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Nigeria are the major exporting countries. In India, October/November are the harvest times while in Nigeria/Sudan/Ethiopia/CentralAmerica/Mexico –November/December is pay back period.

In the western world; hulled sesame is best known as a topping for hamburger buns and is widely used in Asia. Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds. Its high protein content makes sesame popular with the health food industry. Sesame seed is rich in fat, protein, carbohydrates, fibre and some minerals. The aroma and taste of the seed are mild and delicious. It has a nut-like slightly sweet flavour. It is used mainly as a food ingredient in whole, broken, crushed, shelled, powdered and paste forms.

The whole seed is extensively used in middle eastern cuisines. A typical halvah is made from crushed, roasted and sweetened seeds. Some people believe that due to the considerable presence of niacins (8.9 mg per 100 grams), the seed assists against ageing of the human body.

Liquid sesame product is prepared and drunk by both, men and women, in the middle east for rejuvenation of the human system elsewhere.
Sesame seed oil is distinguished by its stability and resists oxidative rancidity even after long exposure to air. It is used in cooking, salad dressings, pharmaceuticals and lubricants. It has uses in cosmetics and skin care industries.

For getting better prices and enhancing the market share, right image-building is necessary. Higher quality of the product should be maintained. Only scientifically treated, properly cleaned, washed, dried, colour-sorted, size-graded, impurities-free seeds with appropriate oil contents not less than 40% packed according to international standards may be exported. Over-commitment should always be avoided.

There is a world of difference between the prices of raw sesame seeds and the oil. The private sector entrepreneurs may, therefore, set up sesame oil extracting plants in the country to ensure that a large portion of crop is exported in higher value added form.
A whole range of sesamum varieties and grades are peculiar to the region where they are grown.

Buyers may choose between unhulled and hulled product. Today, sesame seeds are appearing on and in countless products. Bakeries, health and snack-food manufacturers use natural sesame seeds for baked goods. For applications where the seeds coat a product, natural seed often sticks better. Unhulled sesame seeds also can prolong shelf life by keeping the oil stable, and because there is no processing, natural seed is less expensive. Hulled sesame seed is used widely in the United States on hamburger buns, and other bread and cracker products. It also is used to make tahini paste, and is the principal ingredient in the Middle Eastern sesame specially confection, halvah.

Specifications for natural sesame should concentrate on color, cleanliness and dryness. Color should be as even as possible. Mottled hulls are fine for oil extractions, but not desirable as toppings. When buying pale-colored seeds, fewer dark seeds equates to higher quality. And if purchasing natural seed for hulling, bigger equals better.

Hulled sesame is white, clean and by without any oily residue (something that can occur after processing). And again, the fewer dark seeds, the better. However, it is regarded highly in Japan and China for its flavor. Mexico and Latin America produce “sweet sesame” varieties, and U.S. candy makers are the prime customers for this product.

Natural sesame seed will keep well at ambient temperatures for up to two years. Hulled seeds, however, have a much shorter shelf life. In hot weather, they may be cold-stored to guard against rancidity, but for typical food-manufacturing needs, storage life should not be a problem. Sesame oil is exceptionally stable, resisting oxidation and rancidity better than many vegetable oils. Sesame seeds for export should conform to the following specification.
Sun dry purity 99.9%
Min moisture: 6% MAX.
FFA: 1.5-2%. ADM: 2%
Packing: 50kg Poly bags.
Minimum Order- 1x20ft FCL
Quantity per 20’ Container: 18-19 tones.
In Nigeria there are two types of sesame seed, the Kano (golden) and the Benue (white) both accepted in the international market. Nasarawa state is reputed to be the biggest producer and may before long become one of the biggest areas of productions.


Company name: Huachenghang Trade Co., Ltd.
Contact person: Wangyang
Address: 310 Taihua Street, Shijiazhuang City, Hebei Province. China
Zip: 050071
Telephone: 86-311-87814058
Fax: 86-311-87810029

Company name: Kannas Texile Ind. And Trade INC
Contact person: Mr. Ayhan Kanisli
Address: Cakmak Mah. Cabi Ali Sok. No 5, Gaziantep, Tr Turkey.
Zip: 27400
Phone: 90-342-3230110
Fax: 90-342-3243183

Company name: IKM Species Co.
Contact person: Ikmspices
Address: Hukumet CAD. She Edibali CAD. B Blok No: 8/B Kahramanmaras
Country: Turkey
Phone: 90-344-2158396
Fax: 90-344-2158398

Company name: Ohk Export & Import
Contact name: Hkayiso
Address: Alemdag CD. Abide Sk No: 12 Asagi Dudullu Umraniye
Phone: 90-537-4215607
Fax: 90-212-2969526

Company name: Meteksan Foreign Trade Ltd.
Contact person: Mr. Fevzi Isgor
Address: Mucahitler Caddie 19/2 Merkez Bankasi Arkasi, Mersin, Turkey
Phone: 90-324-2331731
Fax: 90-324-2331733

CHINYEMIKE TORTI, is Chief Executive Officer,
Federation of Nigerian Exporters,
Alumnus,World Bank Institute,Washington DC
Resource Person ITC/WTO,Geneva-Switzerland.