Sesame (Sesamun indicum), an ancient oilseed, is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. This warm-season annual crop is primarily adapted to areas with long growing seasons and well-drained soils and has spread from its center or origin in Iraq to many parts of the world.

Historical documentation suggests that Thomas Jefferson grew sesame seed in test plots more than 200 years ago. He referred to it as beni or benne, the name used in Africa. Sesame was introduced to the United States in the 1930s. The first U.S. commercial production began in the 1950s.

International demand for sesame continues to increase every year. The traded sesame seed f the world recently surpassed one million tons per year and was valued at roughly $850 million. In the last 15 years, world trade in sesame has increased by 79 percent.

In 2004, 884,000 tons of whole sesame seed were exported compared to 427,000 tons in 1988. The top sesame seed exporters are India and Sudan.

The United States imports more sesame than it grows, annually purchasing about 40,000 tons of seed, primarily from South America. This is mainly used for baked and other food products, although non-food cosmetic applications are increasing. Each year, more than 8,000 tons of refined sesame oil is imported into the United States. In 2007, over $36.1 million of sesame oil was imported by the United States (Agricultural Statistics 2008).

Japan is the world’s largest importer of sesame seed. Sesame oil, particularly from roasted seed, is an important component of Japanese cooking and traditionally this is the principal use of the seed. China is the second largest importer of sesame, mostly oil-grade sesame. (The country exports food-grade sesame.) Forecasters predict that sesame imports will grow between 6 percent and 8 percent per year until 2012.

To ensure a top price for the commodity and enhance the market share through exports, particularly in Asia, product image (quality perception) is important. Most importers who supply ingredient distributors and oil processors only want to purchase scientifically treated, properly cleaned, washed, dried, color-sorted, size-graded and impurity-free seeds of given minimum oil content (not less than 40 percent) packed according to international standards. Usually, only seed meeting these criteria may be exported from a producing country.

Annprash Commodities