New Delhi: The central government announced an increase in the minimum support price (MSP) of kharif crops for the 2021-22 season.
The MSP of tur and urad has been increased by Rs 300/quintal in absolute terms for 2021-22 to Rs 6,300/quintal while the MSP of groundnut seed has been increased to Rs 5,550/quintal from Rs 5,275/quintal.
However, the MSP of sesame was raised by Rs 452/quintal to Rs 7,307/quintal, against last year’s Rs 6,855/quintal. This translates to a 6.59 per cent hike, the highest among all crops this year.
Sesame is eaten as a whole seed and also used as a cooking oil since it is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and helps in cholesterol and diabetes-related ailments. Sesame is also used as an ingredient in soaps, cosmetics, lubricants, and medicines.
It has the highest oil content among oilseed crops. The crop is drought-tolerant due to its extensive root system but requires adequate moisture for germination and early growth.
The production of sesame seeds in India yields on an average around 40 -50 percent oil produce. Moreover, around 75-80 per cent of sesame seeds are grown in the monsoon season, also known as the kharif season.
Sesame is a shorter-duration crop, with a duration of 80-90 days. The kharif crop of sesame is mainly grown in arid and semi-arid regions such as Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. However, in the highest sesame-producing state — West Bengal — sowing begins in February and March.
As sesame gets the highest MSP jump, ThePrint looks at the production, output, and export of the oilseed crop.
Production cost and productivity
The per acre production cost of a crop of sesame is Rs 2,600 per acre under irrigated conditions and Rs 1,700 per acre under rainfed conditions. It can yield 200kg/acre in irrigated areas and 250kg/acre in rainfed areas, with a variation in net income from Rs 2,100/acre (rainfed areas) and Rs 2,625/acre (irrigated areas).
According to the Directorate of Oilseed Development data, West Bengal leads in both production and productivity of the crop with a yield of more than 2 lakh metric tonnes and 951 kg/hectare.
Interestingly, the other two states, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, which have maximum acreage of 3.3 LHA (lakh hectare) and 3.5 LHA, respectively have a low yield of sesame – 528kg per hectare and 285kg per hectare, respectively.
According to the latest government estimate of the area under kharif crops, the acreage of sesame is estimated to increase by over 9 per cent from 3.90 LHA in 2019-20 to 4.27 LHA in 2020-21. Moreover, as per the third advance estimates for the 2020-21 crop, the sesame production is likely to remain at 7.92 LMT as against the target of 10.28 LMT.
The sesame production in the last two years has also been low — 6.5 LMT in 2019-20 and 6.8 LMT in 2018-19. Earlier, the kharif sesame production hovered around 7.5-8.9 LMT annually in 2010-11 to 2013-14 while the acreage wa 17-19 LHA.
Moreover, India’s average yield of sesame seeds stands at 413/hectare as against the world’s average yield of 535kg/hectare. At 1,234kg per hectare, the average sesame yield is found to be the highest in China.
The main reasons for the low productivity of sesame in India are its rainfed cultivation and poor nutrition management. A well-managed sesame seed crop can yield 1,200-1,500 kg/ha under irrigated and 800-1,000 kg/ha under rainfed conditions.
The decrease in production and acreage has also damaged the export profile of India which has traditionally been one of the leading producers and exporters of the oilseed crop.
According to reports, India’s export of sesame saw an upward trend till 2014 as it exported crops worth USD 813.6 million in 2014. However, it dipped to USD 477.6 million in 2015 when India witnessed flash drought.
After the 2015 flash drought, the acreage and production of sesame has been growing slowly with occasional fluctuations as farmers across the country depend on the market price for their profits than MSP.
The sesame market price in January varied between Rs 11,113/tonnes to Rs 13,763/tonnes against the revised MSP announced at Rs730.7/tonnes.
One of the other reasons for the dip in production is the decline in the export of sesame in recent months. According to the commerce ministry, the sesame seed export has decreased from 2.82 lakh tonnes in 2019-20 to 2.48 lakh tonnes in 2020-21.
Rahul Chauhan, a researcher at commodity market research firm IGrain India, says exports have declined due to the pandemic. “Due to Covid demand disruption, import of sesame by major countries has decreased from 1.47 LMT to 1.01 LMT tonnes from 2019-20 to 2020-21. This has stressed the outlook of the market as prices are down, hence it may shift farmers more toward groundnut or soybean leading to further dip in acreage and production which the government has tried to counter with a hike in MSP.”