Sesame (Sesamum Indicum) is a tropical and subtropical erect annual flowering plant that is cultivated for its seeds which grow in pods. Sesame seed comes in three colours in Nigeria and the colours are white, brown and black. The brown and white sesame seeds are produced in commercial quantity in Nigeria and the white variety has the highest oil content. Sesame seed is flat in shape and 1,000 seeds weigh between 4 and 8g depending on the variety, agronomy and climatic factors. The economic value of sesame is the high oil content of the seeds ranging between 40-60 percent.
Sesame seed is the most sought after cash crop in Nigeria after cocoa. Nigeria is the second largest producer of sesame seed in Africa after Sudan and ranked seventh in the World. Nigeria produced 480,000tons of sesame seed in 2019 and the bulk of this volume was produced in Benue, Nasarawa, Jigawa, Taraba, Kaduna, Kebbi, Bauchi, Kogi, Plateau, Gombe, Niger and Adamawa states. Ninety percent of sesame seeds produced in Nigeria is exported to Asian and European markets.
Sesame seed is rich in methionine and cysteine, two amino acids that are not found in large amounts in leguminous food crops. Low cholesterol in sesame seed oil makes it an indispensable oil in the production of canned foods, margarine, cooking oil, pharmaceutical products, cosmetics and foods processing. Sesame seed is used as a recipe for garnishing pastry and the cake obtained after extracting the oil is used for the formulation of animal feeds.