OPPORTUNITIES IN THE CASTOR VALUE CHAIN

Nigeria farmers have gotten much more familiarized with cassava, maize, yam, groundnut, vegetables without discussing plant like scent leaves, castor plant, and other money making crop in the agricultural sector. I could remember the first time my eye saw the castor plant physically, I could not resist my smile and inquisitive nature after all of the interesting things said about it online. Castor requires majorly hot climate for it development and growth. Castor is majorly known for its oil which can be used for hair, skin and many more. Castor plants are very common along stream banks, river beds, bottom lands, and just about any hot area where the soil is well drained and with sufficient nutrients and moisture to sustain the vigorous growth. Although the seeds or beans are extremely poisonous, they are the source of numerous economically important products and are one of earliest commercial products. To many people the castor plant is just an overgrown, undesirable weed, and yet it produces one of nature’s finest natural oils use for several purposes. Castor oil is an important feedstock for the chemical industry which is mostly utilized for biodiesel production and pharmaceutical application because it is the only commercial source of hydroxylated fatty acid.

Let us take a quick look at what family the castor plant, is a species of perennial flowering plant in the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae. It is the sole species in the monotypic genus, Ricinus, and subtribe, Ricininae. It is uncommon in Nigeria and it is not every farmer dream, castor production seems easy but not well passed to the farmers by the extension agent. Castor bean farming is done in dry regions under irrigation or through rainfall. It is propagated through seeds in soils that are not fertile and in an area with less rainfall. The soil should be moderately fertile. Castor plant is also grown on the border of the nursery for natural insect control. The prodenia (leaf eating cater pillar) may lay the eggs on the lower side of the leaves of the castor, which can be destroyed by picking the leaves, and buried into the soil. This crop is also helpful as a trap crop as roots of plants trap the nematodes. Dry leaves of castor contain 24 % crude protein along with “ricin alkaloid which is poisonous but green mature leaves can be fed to the cattle with proper care after washing them into the water.

Nigeria has been found to have the best land for the cultivation of castor bean seed but we are yet to take advantage of this golden opportunity. The world consumption of castor oil is very high. Nigeria is still importing about 5 billion naira worth of castor oil yearly as at 2015. Most of the money made from castor bean farming is from castor oil. Castor plant can last for about 5-7 years, harvest is done twice a year. One ton can be gotten from a hectare in one harvest. This means in a year you will have 2 tons. The current price of castor per ton cost over 25,000 naira.

The planting process of castor can be just like any planting process, the soil are needed to be well cleared and drained completely, after the clearing the land, the seed purchased from the right source will be planted with the right spacing of 3 m between rows and 2 m between plants which can be applied. This will give a plant population of approximately over 500 plants to the acre or 1500 plants to the hectare. A seed rate of 3 congo to the acre is applicable. Some sources suggest seed rates as high as 10kg to the hectare.

Opportunities available could include the following

A Producer: castor farmers are very scare and are not very popular like all other plant farmers, castor seems to be one of the most profitable plant in Nigeria that has international recognition and have easier procedures to be exported. It is needed all over the world because of it traditional and medicinal values and characteristics. You can decide to become a castor producer and even work other jobs because it does not require a twenty four hours monitoring like some other plant in the agricultural sector.

An extension agent: All agricultural crop needs the help of an extension agent to be well communicated to local farmers that will find them useful for production, I feel castor has not been well publicized and communicated to local farmers, castor now have different varieties that were breed for special reason base on specific reason and features. The local farmers are not considering castor majorly because of its lack of market in local area, the extension agent under a public or private organisation has the responsibility of making sure castor is well recognized for production. You can start your own extension firm too. 

Oil extractor: Castor farmers can also learn how to extract the castor oil, castor plant seed can also be purchased and other processors extract its oil from it. The oil has been discussed to be very important and useful not only for local farmers but also for other important things outside the agricultural sector. You can consider to be an oil extractor  

An exporter: One of the belief of a normal Nigeria is that to export is not easy because of the different policy and difficulties attached to it and because of what exporters have faced and overcome at a one point or the other. Being an exporter has been considered to be tedious and strenuous but profitable. You can be one

Marketer: YES! You can market, you can source for market for local farmers so that they would be able to produce and have free access to market. One of the most important thing to do when it comes to farming produce like castor is sourcing for market even before production, it make more sense if farmers can have a market and just produce for better productivity and efficiency

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