In a year of a record sowing and an anticipated higher crop, the sesame seed growers are staring at an uncertain future following the coronavirus-driven global trade disruptions.

Farmers from Gujarat hopped onto the sesame-seed bandwagon this summer sowing season with cultivation area of the oilseed rising by three times over the past year.

The State Agriculture Department data showed sesame seed area jumped from 18,887 hectares (ha) last year to a 58,178 ha this summer sowing season, which usually begins in February.

Experts look at this rise in acreage as a promising bet made by farmers on the oilseed with ample water availability and favourable climate.

Favourable factors

“Sesame seed is an export-oriented crop, but it is a very sensitive crop requiring sufficient water and favourable climate. This year, both these factors were favourable so a large number of farmers turned to sesame seed as summer crop,” said Vitthal Dudhatara, President of the Gujarat unit of Bhartiya Kisan Sangh (BKS). The harvest and arrivals will begin by Mid-May.

Area, yield rise

Gujarat has estimated over two-fold rise in summer sesame seed crop this year at 24,490 tonnes (as per third advance estimates), which was 11,650 tonnes in the previous year. In Gujarat, Saurashtra dominates summer sesame seed cultivation with sowing area concentrated in the districts of Junagadh, Rajkot and Surendranagar.

The State government has projected sesame seed yield at 832 kg/ha, which was 661 kg/ha last year.

Prices fall

“Farmers anticipated a higher yield amid favourable climatic and market conditions. But the export outlook remains uncertain due to the lockdown in India and abroad,” a trade source from Rajkot said.

Sesame seed wholesale price averaged ₹11,113 per quintal in Gujarat in April 2020, which was lower by about 19 per cent from ₹13,673 averaged for the same month last year. This is attributed to the higher crop outlook and bleak export prospects amid global trade disruptions.

Per the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS) data, India exported 3.12 lakh tonnes of sesame seed worth ₹3,762 crore in 2018-19. For 2019-20 (April-January data), sesame seed exports stood at 2.32 lakh tonnes worth ₹3,067 crore.

India’s top sesame seed export destinations include the US (15,865 tonnes), South Korea (16,383 tonnes), Vietnam (15,389 tonnes), Russia (11,931 tonnes) and Netherlands (10,795 tonnes) for April-January period of 2019-20.

The overall sesame seed output is targeted at 10.17 lakh tonnes (for kharif season estimate), whereas the Second Advance Estimate released by the Agriculture Ministry in February shows projected sesame seed output at 6.64 lakh tonnes for the year 2019-20, which may be a tad lower than 6.9 lakh tonnes for previous year 2018-19.