As Onattukara sesame has received a geographical indication (GI) tag, stakeholders are upbeat that the recognition will boost its popularity and market value.
Onattukara sesame is currently grown on less than 600 hectares spread across 43 local bodies in three districts of Alappuzha, Kollam and Pathanamthitta. “Farmers will be the biggest beneficiaries. The GI-tagged Onattukara sesame’s price will go up. With the GI tag, the sesame acreage is expected to rise further, resulting in an increase in production. It has medicinal properties and we should tap its export potential,” says B. Lovely, Assistant Professor, Department of Genetics and Plant Breeding, College of Agriculture, Vellayani, Thiruvananthapuram.
The Onattukara Vikasana Agency (OVA), the registered owner of the GI-tagged sesame and with Agriculture Minister P. Prasad as its chairman, has initiated measures to promote the product and expand its cultivation.
“We have already taken steps to increase the cultivation area in the Onattukara region to 2,000 hectares in 2023-24. The OVA is planning to procure the sesame from farmers at ₹300 per kg. Besides making and marketing sesame oil under the Onattukara brand, we will launch a range of value-added products. We have started exploring the possibilities of tie-ups with the Oushadhi, Ayurveda resorts and entrepreneurs. The scope of marketing our products on online platforms and in international markets are also being considered,” says Binesh V.R., chief development officer, OVA. He added that sesame seed production will be increased significantly to meet the growing demand.
The OVA recently submitted a ₹9-crore project to the Ministry of Panchayati Raj and the Kerala government. “We have recommended setting up a sesame oil processing and value-addition unit along with a quality-testing lab at Onattukara Regional Agricultural Research Station (ORARS), Kayamkulam. The proposal includes the expansion of the processing unit in Kulasekharapuram grama panchayat. The revitalisation of the Kulasekharapuram unit by installing new machinery will help us bring out Onattukara brand sesame oil soon,” says Mr. Binesh.
The proposal urges the governments to announce a minimum support price for the procurement of Onattukara sesame.
Besides the traditional Ayali variety, farmers in the region are cultivating Kayamkulam-1, Thilak, Thilathara and Thilarani varieties — all developed by the ORARS.
An analysis by Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) in Thrissur had earlier revealed that the oilseeds have added medicinal value. Compared to other places, sesame grown in the region contains high levels of Vitamin E and antioxidants. It also contains oleic acid, linoleic acid, palmitoleic acid and so on which help maintain good health.