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Organic black sesame brings high value home to rural Paraguay


In rural Paraguay, smallholder farmers are harvesting organic black sesame for discerning palates in Asia, where it tops sushi and noodle dishes. The two worlds were bridged via a strategic partnership between USAID’s Paraguay Productivo project (PyP, managed by CARANA) and BioExport, a five-year-old Paraguayan distributor and exporter with a mission: find, organize and train small producers to satisfy the growing international demand for organic black sesame, the company’s signature grain.

Black sesame is a high-maintenance crop, requiring certifications and extensive farmer training—which pays off with a high price differential. BioExport contacted PyP for assistance in fortifying its supply chain, and the two joined forces in early 2011. We held trainings in three districts in production best practices, joint marketing techniques and traceability for BioExport staff, field technicians and producer organization representatives—who in turned trained more than 10,000 farmer suppliers.

As BioExport prepared to expand its processing capacity beyond leased facilities, PyP facilitated a $400,000 credit line backed by a US Government warranty instrument and helped the company develop its business plan. Today, BioExport has six new regional collection centers and a 6,000 MT processing plant, where the sesame is cleaned, sorted and packaged for export. Exports doubled in 2011 to 2,200 MT, mainly to Japan, with an annual target of 3,500 MT. BioExport’s president, Arturo Fernandez, credits PyP’s assistance in its successful transformation from product collector to direct exporter.

Published April 2012