Sesame can grow in many parts of Ethiopia. However, the western and northwestern parts of the country (West Amhara, Benishangul Gumuz, West Oromia, and Tigray) are the principal growers. Both commercial and smallholder farmers grow sesame. According to the Central Statistical Authority (CSA) of Ethiopia, the smallholder farmers account for about 60% of production. It is to be noted that commercial farmers generally include individuals who own land size of 10 ha and above.
An overview of the national production of sesame for the last five years (between 2015-2019), indicated that production has declined by over 86 thousand MT (nearly 30% drop in five years). The decline in production can be attributed to declining yield per ha compared to other competitive crops (soybean and mungbean) due to limited investment in the former case. Though the official statistics show the productivity of 0.7 MT per ha, most stakeholders indicated that yield is around 0.4 MT/ha.
Sesame is primarily grown by farmers as a cash crop and over 97% is exported. There are over 1300 exporters dealing with oilseeds according to data from MoT; nearly all of these deal with the same. In relation to sesame, there are two types of export-raw and processed. Raw sesame accounts for over 95% of the volume exported. Israel and China are the principal destinations for Ethiopian sesame. In the past,, China used to be by far a major buyer. In some cases, Chinese companies form a joint venture or delegate a local agent who purchases on their behalf during the harvesting season. Processed sesame export is done in the form of hulled and tahina. There are few companies doing hulling (Select Hulling (organic hulled sesame), Ambasel (hulled sesame and Tahina), Agri-Prom (hulled sesame), Hajuta Trading (hulled sesame), Guna Trading (hulled sesame).
Raw sesame exporters can broadly fall into two: farmer organizations and private businesses. Tsehay, Metema, Selam, and Setit Unions are farmer organizations actively engaged in the export of sesame seed. Until the issuance of the new regulation in October 2019, most private companies have been exporting sesame to get access to foreign currency. These companies have import trading or manufacturing businesses. They have limited investment for cleaning and do not have long term business.