Need to promote Sesame cultivation

Edible oil is one of the important commodities of everyday use. Pakistan has been persistently and acutely deficient in its production. About 70 per cent of the domestic requirements are met through imports. Efforts have been made to increase production. In domestic production major share comes from cottonseed contributing 60 per cent of local production and cotton is growing as fiber crop in Pakistan.

Sesame is an oilseed crop containing 50 per cent oil content compared to soybean 20 per cent. Sesame oil is one of the most stable vegetable oils, with long shelf life, because of the high level of natural antioxidants (sesamin, sesamolin and sesamol). Oil from the seed is used in cooking, as salad oils and margarine, and contains about 47 percent oleic and 39 percent linoleic acid. Sesame seed oil, like sunflower seed oil, is rich in Omega 6 fatty acids, but lacks Omega 3 fatty acids. Sesame seed is also rich in protein, at 25 percent by weight. The flour that remains after oil extraction is between 35 to 50 percent protein, has good effective carbohydrates, and contains water-soluble antioxidants (sesaminol glucosides) that provide added shelf-life to many products. This flour, also called sesame meal, is an excellent high-protein feed for poultry and livestock. The addition of sesame to high lysine meal of soybean produces a well balanced animal feed.

The total global harvest was about 3.84 million metric tons of sesame seeds in 2013. The largest producer in 2013 was Burma (Myanmar), and the top three producers, Burma, India, and China, accounted for 50 percent of global production. The world traded over a billion dollars worth of sesame seeds in 2013. The trade volume has been increasing rapidly in the last two decades. Japan is the worlds largest sesame importer. Sesame oil, particularly from roasted seed, is an important component of Japanese cooking and traditionally the principal use of the seed.

In Pakistan, area of 84,000 hectares was cultivated to produce 35,000 tons of sesame seed for the year 2013 according to Agricultural Statistics of Pakistan and Pakistan ranks 14 in term of area. This production is not adequate for national needs, so requirements are met through importing edible oil by spending a huge capital of foreign exchange (UD$ 1354 million) annually on edible oil trade. Pakistan is facing a sensitive shortage of irrigation water thus at present sesame is the best choice as an edible oil crop for agriculture. Pakistan ranks 22nd in case of production and has a world share of 0.7 per cent. In Pakistan potential of sesame is 1200kg/ha but average yield is 452kg/ha and Pakistan ranks 58 in term of yield that is very low. Yield gap is 750kg/ha, that is due to poor agro management practices.

Sesame is drought tolerant due to its long root system. Crop survives drought as well as water logging. It requires well drained, fertile soil having neutral pH. Sesame requires 90-120 frost free days, warm conditions 23 °C favor growth and yield. Sesame seed is a high value cash crop. Sesame cultivation should promote in Pakistan because it is a cash crop and high benefit cost ratio. It is a drought tolerant and necessitates very less inputs; by using modern technologies yield gap can be minimized. Farmers can increase their income by growing sesame crop. The government should take steps to bring more area under the sesame crop.

To minimize the yield gap, proper agro management practices should be done. High yielding varieties should be introduced and research organizations should develop new high yielding varieties. All stakeholders should work to promote the cultivation of sesame crop. Extension department can play a key role in promoting the cultivation. Timely sowing, approved varieties, proper pest management, irrigation scheduling, recommended plant population and timely harvesting are the practices that can minimize the yield gap. By promoting this crop, local need of edible oil can be met and we can save a huge amount of foreign exchange that is being spent on importing the edible oil. So sesame is very high valuable cash crop and we should promote it in Pakistan.

The authors are from the Department of Agronomy, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan.

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