The national President of Castor Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (CASGPMAN), Lawan Ali, has revealed that castor farming in the country can reduce unemployment drastically in the nearest future. He made this assertion in his office when our correspondent visited him. The activities of the association cover; growing, processing and marketing of castor.
The castor oil plant (Ricinus communis) is a species of flowering plant in the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae. It belongs to a monotypic genus, Ricinus, and subtribe, Ricininae. The evolution of castor and its relation to other species are currently being studied using modern genetic tools.
Its seed is the castor bean, which, despite its name, is not a true bean. Castor is indigenous to the southeastern Mediterranean Basin, Eastern Africa, and India, but is widespread throughout tropical regions (and widely grown elsewhere as an ornamental plant).
Castor seed is the source of castor oil, which has a wide variety of uses. The seeds contain between 40% and 60% oil that is rich in triglycerides, mainly ricinolein. The seed contains ricin, a toxin, which is also present in lower concentrations throughout the plant.
Lawan Ali told our man that castor has local and international markets, and was quick to add that local production is not enough for national consumption. “Nigeria import about 117million dollar worth of castor oil annually”, he said. He said the crop is grown in every state of the federation. He also said there are only two full time castor farmers and on two processing machines in the country, Ali revealed.
One of the processing plants is owned by Chief Audu Ogbe. His plant has the capacity to process about 15,000tons of castor seeds annually but scarcity of seeds has been hampering the operations of the plant. Lawan also said that low yield is another problem compare to what is obtainable in India. According to his one hectare of farmland in Nigeria can yield up to 2.3tons of castor seeds, whereas the same number on hectare yield over 4tons of castor. He said scientific farming the way forward in this case.
Other benefits of castor are that a liter of the oil sells for at least one thousand naira in Nigeria. And processed 70milimeter of castor sells for five hundred naira(ie over six thousand naira per refined one liter of castor oil, as there are 13(70mils) in a liter). Lawan Ali cited statistics and told our man that India produces over 900,000tons of castor seeds annually, while the whole of Africa account for only 12,000tons annually. He put Nigerian output at around 2,000tons. The highest producer in Africa is Ethiopia – about 5,000tons.
He advised the govern ment and business people to invest in castor farming as alternative to petroleum as he said a barrel of petroleum product sells for around 100 US dollar while a barrel of castor seeds is worth over 300 US dollar. He posited that castor farming will create many jobs in a few years, thereby helping in reducing unemployment problem in the country.