It has been conducted over 160 hectares in six districts, using the GCH-7 variety of higher yielding seed, developed by Sardarkrushinagar Dantiwada Agricultural University (SDAU), Palanpur. The outpt per hectare it has reported, from most areas, is an average of four tonnes. Conventional means have not given more than two tonnes per ha.
This could revolutionise the lives of thousands of farmers across Gujarat, Telangana, Rajasthan and other major growing states.
“Farming was done under our guidance and continuous monitoring, which doubled farmers’ income without significant change in farm practices or additional input cost,” said Atul Chaturvedi, president, Solvent Extractors’ Association of India (SEA).
India supplies around 90 per cent of the world demand for castor oil and castor meal; demand from abroad has regularly risen. Castor oil is used in a number of industries, including pharmaceuticals and in aviation (as a fuel which does not freeze at even 40 degrees of negative temperature).
SEA plans to expand the model farming area this year to 200 hectares across Gujarat, Telangana and Rajasthan, with the same variety of seed and farm practices. The GCH-7 variety apparently withstands adverse climatic conditions. Worm and pest attacks are another story and SDAU is working to develop seeds yo withstand these, too.
“There is always demand for derivatives of castorseed from the world market. While castor oil is used for various industrial purposes, the meal finds application as bio-fertiliser. India exports 200,000 tonnes of castor meal to Japan and other countries,” said B V Mehta, executive director, SEA.
The development assumes significance in the wake of farmers shifting to other crops for better return. After annual record output of 2.3 million tonnes, castorseed prices had slumped to Rs 2,750 a quintal (the wholesale price in Gujarat is now Rs 4,075 a qtl), resulting in farmers opting for other crops.
Its production, consequently, started falling; it was 1.4 mt in 2016-17. The latest estimate from the Union ministry of agriculture is for 1.5 mt in 2017-18.
“Doubling the output will not impact its prices, due to its ever increasing demand. Hence, farmers might opt for growing more of it, for better and sustained realisation,” hopes Haresh Vyas, joint managing director at Royal Castor Productsd, a castor oil derivatives manufacturer here.