Fears are heightening for a possible acute shortage of maize produce this year due to a major shift of attention from the crop by farmers along the Ghana-Burkina Faso border to the production of sesame.
An environmentalist, Ayamga Bawa Fatawu, while expressing concerns about the low production of maize this year in the agrarian areas fears that the entire country could be hit by an acute shortage of the commodity after this rainy season.
In a report, the award-winning Tourism Writer said the situation is a result of the discovery of the sesame crop termed by farmers as a new white gold which led them to make a major shift from the production of maize to sesame because it involves little or no cost in production.
According to Mr. Ayamga B. Fatawu, the decision of the farmers could partly be blamed on the scarcity and high cost of fertilizer in this season.
“[These areas have] now allocated a chunk part of their farmlands to the cultivation of the white Sesame to avoid the skyrocketing prices of farm inputs such as fertilizer and even the frustration of getting supplies should one have the purchasing power.”
He, therefore, feared that “there is more likelihood of Ghana experiencing an acute shortage of maize after this farming season.”
According to data obtained from the Upper West Regional Department of Agriculture Sissala East, Wa East, and Sissala West districts as well as other agrarian areas along the border are the leading producers of maize and other staple foods in the Upper West Region and by Extension Ghana at large. They collectively produce a total of 103,474.42 metric tons of maize in the 2019 farming season alone (SIRD 2019).
During engagements with farmers in the last rainy season, some sesame farmers said the sesame crop was easy to cultivate and does not require laborious attention as compared to other crops, yet was very economical.
A young sesame farmer, David Luri foretold from last farming season that awareness of sesame as one of the best productive yet economical crop was gaining grounds in the area and added that he was readying his produce to sell them to farmers who would be engaging in the production of the crop in upcoming years. According to him as of last year, he could sell a bag of sesame for GHS 700.00.
History of the Sesame crop
In 2018, world production of sesame seeds was 6 million tonnes, led by Sudan, Myanmar, and India. The white and other lighter–coloured sesame seeds are common in Europe, the Americas, West Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. The black and darker-coloured sesame seeds are mostly in China and the Southeast.
Japan is the world’s largest sesame importer. Sesame oil, particularly from roasted seed, is an important component of Japanese cooking and traditionally the principal use of the seed, China is the second-largest importer of sesame, mostly oil grade. Other major importers are United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Turkey, and France. Sesame seed is a high–value cash crop.
Prices have ranged between$800 and $1700Sesame seed is considered to be the oldest oilseed crop known to humanity. The genus has many species, and most are wild. Most wild genus Sesamum are native to sub-Saharan Africa, the cultivated type originated from India.
Archaeological remnants suggest sesame was first domesticated in the Indian subcontinent dating 5500 years ago. Some reports claim sesame was cultivated in Egypt during the Ptolemaic period, while others suggest the new kingdom. Egyptians called it sesemt, and it is included in the list of medicinal drugs in the scrolls of Ebers Papyrus dated back to be over 3,600 years old.
Archaeological reports from Turkey indicate that sesame was pressed to extract oil at least 2750 years ago in the empire of Urartu. The historic origin of sesame was favoured by its ability to grow in areas that do not support the growth of other crops. It is a robust crop that needs little farming support.
It grows in drought conditions, in high heat, with residual moisture in soil after monsoons are gone or even when rains fail or when rains are excessive. it was a crop that could be grown by subsistence farmers at the edge of deserts, where no other crops grow. Sesame has been called a survivor crop. Where it grows-cultivation Sesame varieties have adapted to soil types.
The high-yielding crops thrive best on well-drained, fertile soils of medium texture and neutral PH. However, these have a low tolerance for soils with high salt and water-logged conditions. Commercial sesame crops require 90 to 120 frost-free days.
Warm conditions above 23 C favour growth and yields. While the crop survives drought and the presence of excess water, the yields are significantly lower in either condition. Moisture levels before planting and flowering impact yield the most. Most commercial cultivators of sesame are intolerant of waterlogging. Rainfall late in the season prolongs growth and increases loss to dehiscence, when the seedpod shatters, scattering the seed.
Wind can cause shattering at harvest. Processing the sesame seed is protected by a capsule that bursts when the seeds are ripe. The time of bursting, or dehiscence, tends to vary, so farmers cut plants by hand and place them together in an upright position to continue ripening until all capsules have opened. Since sesame is a small, flat seed, it is difficult to dry it after harvest because the small seed makes the movement of air around the seed difficult.
Therefore, the seed needs to be harvested as dry as possible and stored at 6% moisture or less. After harvesting, the seeds are usually cleaned and hulled because sesame seeds with a consistent appearance are perceived to be of better quality by consumers, and sell for a better price. Sesame seeds are a good source of healthy fats, protein, B vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and other beneficial plant compounds.