Castor seed production in India is expected to grow by 88 per cent in 2019-20 over the previous year to 2.036 million tonnes, according to the latest Agriwatch survey. Last year, India produced 1.082 million tonnes of castor seed.
According to a field survey conducted by Agriwatch or the Indian Agribusiness Systems Ltd., commissioned by the Solvent Extractors' Association (SEA), castor seed production in Gujarat, the leading producer in the country, is estimated to grow by 96 per cent to 1.744 million tonnes in 2019-20 as against roughly 889,000 tonnes last year.
The survey findings were released at the recently held annual Global Castor Conference organised by SEA here.
State government estimates peg growth of 39 per cent in total area under castor in Gujarat for 2019-20 at roughly 741,000 hectares as against about 53400 hectares last year. However, the Agriwatch field survey pegs the growth at 44 per cent.
Compared to state government numbers, Agriwatch survey estimates castor acreage to stand at 770,150 hectares in 2019-20. Further, using remote sensing techniques, the castor acreage for the state is estimated at 753,660 hectares for 2019-20. This is despite the locust attack in December 2019 which caused serious damage to the crop.
"The major reasons for increase in acreage this year is higher returns to the farmers in the seed last season and good seasonal rainfall this year in all growing districts," Agriwatch stated.
In terms of productivity of castor in kg per hectare (ha), the estimated average for 2019-20 is expected to be 2,389 kg/ha against last year’s estimate of 1,751 kg/ha, an increase by 36 per cent. "Overall, the farmers are expecting increase in yield this year due to good monsoon and improved availability of water for irrigation," it stated.
Country-wide, average castor seed productivity for the year 2019-20 is estimated to be 2,052 kg/ha as compared to 1,407 kg/ha last year. The average yield findings are based on farmers' response about their yield expectation on present crop conditions.
Further, nationally, total area under castor seed cultivation in India for the year 2019-20 is estimated to be 992,000 hectares according to the government’s estimates against 2018-19 estimate of 769,570 hectares, which has increased by 29 per cent compared to the previous year, the survey reported.
"Acreage has reported to have increased across all top producing districts of Gujarat, Rajasthan and AP & Telangana," it further stated.
Meanwhile, castor seed prices have taken a beating due to lower castor oil demand from China amidst the coronavirus outbreak. After falling by over 10 per cent by January 2020, castor seed prices are expected to fall further by 10-12 per cent. Apparently, China accounts for roughly 70 per cent of India's castor oil exports.