RENEW Strategies

Sesame: A Tiny Seed Has Great Potential in Ethiopia's Economy

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Lulit Negash
| March 21, 2014

In less than a decade, Ethiopia jumped from being a minor producer of sesame to one of the top five sesame producers in the world. At the same time, the international demand for sesame continues to increase every year. The world’s traded sesame seeds recently surpassed one million tons per year, valued at roughly $850 million. In the last 15 years, the world's trade in sesame has increased by nearly 80%. Sesame seeds are Ethiopia’s 2nd largest cash export crop behind coffee, and largest in terms of weight. The near-organic production practices enhance Ethiopia’s global reputation for producing high quality sesame.

Ethiopia possesses favorable agro-climatic conditions for sesame production, as well as abundant land for agricultural activities. This makes the country one of the top raw sesame seed exporters in the world, supplying 14% of the global market for raw seeds. These seeds are then processed abroad. The domestic processing capacity in Ethiopia is currently quite limited, presenting a significant opportunity for investment. Currently Ethiopia is losing out on the opportunity to increase sesame revenues by mainly exporting seeds raw. Therefore, developing hulling facilities and other value addition facilities will position the country to grow its sesame market and better establish its international market position.

Some target consuming markets of sesame such as the U.S. and Mexico primarily demand hulled sesame, which leaves Ethiopian sesame exporters unable to meet the requirements. RENEW is currently looking at existing sesame exporters and processors to identify investment opportunities. Such investments would help close the gap in revenue per ton between Ethiopian sesame and the global average in these hulled-sesame purchasing markets.

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