Stories by Steve Agbota
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Castor (Ricinus communis L.) is cultivated around the world because of the commercial importance of its oil. India is said to be the world’s largest producer of castor seed and meets most of the global demand for castor oil.
Nigeria imports over N30 billion worth of castor oil every year despite having arable and fertile land, and climatic conditions suitable for its farming. It is crystal clear that only very few Nigerians are taking advantage of the present opportunities in the different agriculture value chains.
Numerous opportunities abound in castor farming, as a potential farmer or investor can make up to N50 million on 10 hectares of land over a period of seven years due to its more than 1000 uses and over 80 health benefits, which is why it is regarded as miracle seed. The oil extract from the plant is one of its most economically valuable aspects that companies around the world cannot do without on daily basis.
Because of its unlimited industrial applications, castor oil enjoys tremendous demand worldwide. The current consumption of castor oil and its derivatives in the domestic market is estimated at about 300,000 tonnes.
Castor oil’s application range is very wide with uses ranging from paints, synthetic resins and varnishes, to the areas of national security involving engineering plastics, jet engine lubricants and polymers for electronics and telecommunications.
Castor oil and its derivatives also find major application in soaps, grease, hydraulic brake fluids and perfumery products as well.
Castor oil is a basic ingredient in the production of nylon 11, jet engine lubricants, nylon 610, heavy duty automotive greases, coatings and inks, surfactants, polyurethanes, polishes, flypapers, and many other chemical derivatives and medicinal, pharmaceutical and cosmetic derivatives.
Potential farmers and investors are advised to consult an expert in castor farming on where to get good seeds and other inputs before venturing into castor faming business.
Speaking on the economic benefits, a farmer and consultant with Monrole Global, Mr. Akin Famuyiwa, said, “the money in castor is even more in production of its oil. With a small machine, a castor oil producer can make N1 billion in a year. Crude castor oil could be sold to electricity companies, textile industries, paint industries, aviation industries and pharmaceutical industries to mention few. All these industries need castor oil presently imported from India and China.
Pharmaceutical industries need organic castor bean oil to produce painkillers. The world’s consumption is high and production is too low.
“Castor is a seven-year plant. This means that one time investment will last for seven good years. To me, this is incredible. A tonne of castor bean sells for $1,500 as at now. If one plants castor on 2½ acres of land (1 hectare), he can get 1 tonne every five months for seven years, which means you will harvest for about 15 times because it starts producing as from the fifth month after planting. It only needs four rains or watering to survive and that makes you a silent millionaire because people don’t even know it when they see it. The whites come to us to look for it. We don’t have good castor seed in Nigeria but we have the best land for castor plant.”
On the cost of starting castor farming and analysis for 10 hectares of castor plantation, he said clearing of land depends on one’s negotiations and location, and heaping also depends on negotiations.
He further explained: “Labour to be determined by self, pesticides will cost N12,000, seedlings N25,000, which the total is N37,000. Likely challenges are similar to other agricultural ventures that include pest, lack of fertiliser, and lack of adequate processing factory as cost of acquiring machineries is expensive. Also, capital often limits farmers, as a government loan is sometimes cumbersome to access due to too many requirements.”