Local business wants to boost sesame production
Elita Chikwati Senior Agric Reporter
A local entrepreneur has set up shop to boost sesame production in the country, an initiative that is expected to improve farmers’ livelihoods, raise living standards and contribute to the well-being of the economy.
Sesame production also aims to increase raw materials for making cooking oil and as an import substitution strategy.
Globereach Agro Pvt Ltd employs 5,000 farmers nationwide to produce sesame.
Farmers in Hoya, Mahuwe, Muzarabani, Mt Darwin, Rushinga, Chipinge, Masvingo, Triangle and Mashoko in Bikita, among others, have benefited since last year from the outsourcing project led by Globereach Agro.
Farmers are under contract for one hectare of crop and the business has not yet passed to commercial farmers.
Sesame is a climate smart crop that can produce significant yields even in the driest parts of the country.
Sesame is a short-season variety that takes 110 days to reach physiological maturity.
The crop is cultivated for its seeds, which are used in flavoring food and from which a valuable oil is extracted.
In Zimbabwe, farmers produced sesame using their own resources and exported it to Mozambique and other neighboring countries.
Globereach Agro General Manager Mr. Decent Chitsungo said they are hiring farmers to do one hectare each to ensure good harvest management.
âOur farmers are growing it as an organic crop and it gives a nice premium,â he said. âIf done on a large scale, cultivation can end up requiring the use of chemicals to control pests and diseases. Cultivation is also labor intensive during harvest.
âOne hectare of sesame gives a yield of 600 kilograms and some farmers are doing well above it. Some farmers in Chiredzi receive 1.2 tonnes per hectare.
Mr Chitsungo said that sesame has a bad smell and it keeps pests away from the crop.
âWe encourage farmers to make small plots so that they can manage the harvest,â he said. âThe harvest should not be delayed because the harvest can be wasted in the field or it can be contaminated. In fact, we harvest just before the sesame dies.
Mr Chitsungo said that many farmers who grew sesame exported to Mozambique where they got mediocre prices.
âBesides being ripped off by foreign buyers, farmers will also deprive the country of foreign currency,â he said. âWe encourage local farmers to deal with local traders. We have conducted awareness campaigns on the importance of selling locally.
Sesame is a close crop and the best alternative to cotton and is cheap and easy to grow compared to other oil seeds.
As part of the project, Globereach Agro mobilizes farmers in groups of 30 within a village. Purchases and payments for the distribution of inputs are then made at the village level.
Globereach Agro exports sesame to South Africa and is looking for opportunities to diversify in Europe.
âSesame is in great demand,â Mr. Chitsungo said. âWe started producing the crop last year and exported 2,500 tonnes to South Africa. We are now in second year. We started with less than a thousand farmers as part of our project.
âWe have extension agents and also work closely with Agritex agents to educate farmers on the production of the crop. “
Mr. Chitsungo said the sesame project compliments the government’s efforts to boost rural development, as small farmers will earn foreign exchange and also contribute to the achievement of Vision 2030 and the goals of National Development Strategy 1.
âWe are also looking at the added value of sesame seed,â he said. âWe are working on the creation of a processing plant in Muzarabani and Gokwe in order to be able to produce bottled oil. We believe that when we double production, we create jobs.
âBy processing sesame seeds, we will also be able to make animal feed. “
Mr. Chitsungo said the sesame project does not conflict with cotton production, but helps cotton cultivation.
âWe also see ourselves as a cotton player in the near future,â he said. âWe will contract with farmers to make both cotton and sesame. For a farmer to benefit from the sesame seed, he must have grown one hectare of cotton.
Experts say sesame’s diverse uses, from direct consumption as a food to an ingredient in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, make it a highly valuable product in regional and international markets. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) says that the growing world population, changing consumption patterns and consumer health awareness are some of the reasons that have led to a boom in the sesame market.
Trade Map figures show that global sesame seed exports in 2019 amounted to US $ 3.07 billion, compared to US $ 2.7 billion in 2018 and US $ 2.2 billion in 2017.
Information gleaned from ZimTrade, the national trade development and promotion organization, shows that among these global export figures, Zimbabwe’s share of the export market is US $ 85,000.
ZimTrade said that increased consumer awareness of the benefits of sesame seeds and support to farmers in production and marketing will enable the more than 1,200 smallholder farmers currently producing sesame to increase their production. In order to increase sesame cultivation, the government targeted 100,000 tonnes of sesame during the 2020/21 summer agricultural season through cotton growers and was led by the Cotton Company (Cottco).
The world’s top exporters last year were Sudan ($ 606 million), India ($ 529 million), Ethiopia ($ 332 million), Nigeria ($ 289 million) and Tanzania ($ 189 million).
Last year, the biggest importers were China (US $ 1.2 billion), Japan (US $ 303 million), Turkey (US $ 267 million), India (US $ 196 million) US), Korea (US $ 145 million) and Israel (US $ 119 million).
Currently, sesame farmers in Zimbabwe are struggling to find a market for their harvest.
Agricultural analysts say it might be time to turn to ZimTrade, to provide market information and connect them with potential buyers in the region and beyond.