Sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) is an oilseed crop of Indian origin. It is chiefly confined to tropical and sub-tropical regions and has vintage value for the high quality edible oil and seed for direct confectionery use. It is the fourth largest oilseed crop cultivated in India (1.72 million ha for the Quinquennium Ending 2017-18) after soybean, rapeseed-mustard and groundnut. The importance of sesame is recognized globally and therefore holds a prime position in the international trade. The global trade of sesame seed is valued at approximately $1.49 billion. In addition, the demand for sesame oil is also increasing during the last decade indicating the importance of sesame crop at the global level.
A tiny seed, sesame has excellent nutritional, medicinal, cosmetic and cooking qualities of oil. Due to the presence of lignans and tocopherols, sesame oil has remarkable antioxidant function. The seeds are rich in quality proteins and essential amino acids. The seed is a rich source of linoleic acid, vitamins E, A, B1, B2, niacin and minerals.
The history of medicinal usage of sesame is intimately linked with the history of humankind. Ayurveda, the mother of all the systems of medicine, has used sesame oil as base. The world knows the importance of tiny sesame and therefore considers it as queen of oil seeds. The oil, with 85% unsaturated fatty acids, is highly stable and has reducing effect on cholesterol and prevents cardio-vascular diseases. The oil also finds place in the manufacture of soaps, paints, perfumes, pharmaceuticals and insecticides.
Sesame seed with approximately 50% oil, 25% protein and 15% carbohydrates is used in baking, candy making and other food industries. Sesame seed are store house of energy and rich in vitamins E, A, B complex and minerals viz., calcium, phosphorus, iron, copper, magnesium, zinc and potassium. Sesame milk, extracted by crushing the seeds, is devoid of anti-nutritional factors and is the best substitute for mother’s milk especially in case of milk allergies. Sesame meal is an excellent high quality protein (40%) feed for poultry and livestock. Sesame seed contains significant quantities of methionine, tryptophan - amino acids with innumerable benefits. Sesame is an energy rich crop, ironically grown on energy starved condition.
International demand for sesame is on an increasing trend across the globe. Post 2000, the world trade in sesame has increased by nearly 80 percent. Sudan, India, Nigeria, Myanmar, Tanzania and China are the major exporters of sesame seeds and its products. China, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Germany and USA are the world’s largest importer of sesame seed.
Table 1 Exports details of sesame for the year 2017-18 and 2018-19
Production (‘000 tons)
Quantity exported (‘000 tons)
Value (crores rupees)
Percent share of sesame in total export
Exports of agriculture and allied products (crore rupees)
Percent share of Agriculture and allied products in total export
Source: Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics, (Kolkata), Ministry of Trade and Commerce, GOI.
India exported 312.62 lakh tonnes worth of rupees 3920 crores of sesame seed and oil in the year 2018-19. The quantity, value and the share of sesame export to the country’s total export is given in Table 1. Nearly 39.8 % of the total production is exported to 123 nations of the world and remaining 64.5 % is consumed domestically. Major quantity of sesame seed is exported to Vietnam, Republic of Korea, USA, Iran, Russia, Netherlands, Germany, Taiwan, Indonesia, Greece and Israel. The major sesame oil importing countries include Iran, China, Taiwan, Mexico, Netherlands, Singapore, UAE and USA. The country evidenced 1.68 % Compound Annual growth rate in the quantity of export of sesame seed for the period 2013-14 to 2018-19 % while the exports of oil registered a CAGR of 8.17 % for the aforesaid period indicating the demand of Indian sesame (seed and oil) in the world market. The quantity of sesame seed and oil exported from India for the period 2013-14 to 2018-19 is presented in Table 2.
Table 2. Quantity of sesame seed and oil exported from India for the period 2013-14 to 2018-19
Oil and fractions
Rupees in crores
Rupees in crores
Source: Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics, (Kolkata)
The market demand differs with the seed coat color of sesame. In general, the white to beige color seed coat varieties seem to be more valued across the globe, while the black seeded varieties find a premium in the Far East. India produces white, brown and black seed coat sesame. The share of revenue generated to the country from exports of sesame is 0.16 % (groundnut: 0.14% and other oilseeds: 0.04%).
Despite the crop perpetual to marginal and small holdings with poor resource management, its contribution to the national exchequer is substantial suggesting that appropriate interventions for increasing the productivity can definitely enhance the farm level profitability and to the export basket of the country. Sesame meal (left over after oil extraction) is high protein source which is in great demand as food and feed. Sesame meal export is also increasing to European countries viz., Germany, Netherlands and France.
India is the largest producer of sesame catering to the world market. In the year 2018-19, the production was 7.84 lakh tonnes from 15.62 lakh hectares with an average productivity of 502 kg/ha. Globally, sesame is cultivated across 75 nations spanning 10.9 million hectare with a production of 6.5 million tonnes. (FAOSTAT, 2016).
Sesame cultivation and production is dominated by Asian and African countries. The major sesame producing countries are Sudan, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Uganda of African and India, Myanmar, China and Bangladesh of Asia. India follows Sudan (2.13 million ha) in area but ranks first in production during 2016.
In India, the crop is largely cultivated in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra and Odisha under diverse agro ecological situations leading to variations in productivity ranging from 224 to 933 kg/ha.. There prevails wide diversity of sesame cultivation with respect to season of cultivation, seed coat color, seed size, oil content. Sesame is cultivated in diverse ecosystem such as, under rainfed condition (>300 mm rainfall), dryland condition (<300 mm rainfall), irrigated condition and in coastal eco system under residual moisture conditions. White seed coat sesame is predominantly grown in Northern states of the country and primarily for export purpose besides usage for bakery and confectionery purpose.
Domestic demand for sesame and sesame oil is increasing every year. The domestic market prices are also remunerative for the producers with an average of Rs.7000 per quintal. Cultivation of sesame should increase in the high productive zones such as West Bengal, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. Although the crop has high economic value, majority of the area is confined to rainfed situation in marginal fertility soils with adoption of poor management technologies in terms of seeds, plant population, fertilizers and plant protection. As many as 91 high yielding varieties with matching technology(s) for increased productivity are released under the NARES in India. Adoption of these technologies by the farmers can substantially increase the yield per unit area and subsequently enhance the farmers’ income. It is warranted for focused technology interventions on Agro Ecological Region (AER) approach for giving a fillip to the productivity of sesame. Promoting sesame on cluster approach will facilitate mechanized harvesting which will decrease the labour intensity for harvesting, cleaning and grading at farm level. The potential technologies specific to agro-climatic regions to increase the production of quality sesame are available, however investment on crop production technologies for sesame is negligible among the farmers. Linkages with the R & D agencies, NGO’s and private industry is necessitated for improving the productivity at the farm level and for enhanced post-harvest management.
The consumption and usage of sesame is increasing globally, therefore the value in international market is on an increasing trend. Looking at the export potential of sesame from India, the government should create awareness on safe and quality sesame production, encourage farmers to invest on crop production technologies. This would enhance the production of high quality sesame to fetch better price and increase the income of the farmers. Promoting export with high quality sesame is necessary to have significant share in the international trade and lead the World market in sesame.
ICAR-Indian Institute of Oilseeds Research, Rajendranagar, Hyderabad