Castor (Ricinus Cummunis) is also known as the “Palm of Christ”. It belongs to the Euphorbiaceae family and is indigenous to the south-eastern Mediterranean Basin, Eastern Africa and India.

Castor crop

The crop is cultivated around the world for its non-edible oilseed. Castor is a perennial crop but is grown as an annual for economic purpose. It is cultivated mostly in the arid and semi- arid regions of the world. The crop duration is 4-5 months. In India, it is sown in July/August and harvesting commences around December /January.

The presence of hydroxyl fatty acid known as ricinoleic acid makes castor oil unique among other seed oils. Castor oil is also distinguished from other vegetable oils by its high specific gravity and thickness thus making it amenable for a number of uses.

Castor oil

Castor oil and its derivatives have applications in the manufacturing of soaps, lubricants, hydraulic and brake fluids, paints, dyes, coatings, inks, cold resistant plastics, waxes and polishes, nylon, pharmaceuticals and perfumes. Castor meal, the byproduct of the oil extraction process is mainly used as fertiliser.


In 2009, total global area and production of castor oil seed stood at 1.47 million hectare (mh) and 1.5 million tonnes (mt) respectively, of which India alone contributed approximately 73 per cent of total global production.

Other major producers include China, Brazil and Mozambique. India is the largest exporter of castor oil and exported 3.45 lakh mt in the year 2009-10.

Exports and imports

Other major exporters of castor oil include US, EU-27 and Brazil. China is the largest importer of castor oil with an overall share of 46 per cent of world imports. Other important import destinations include EU-27, US, Japan and Thailand.

India is a major contributor in global castor oil seed production with total production of 1.1 million mt cultivated across an area of 0.84 mh (in 2009). The average domestic productivity is 1.3 million tonnes a hectare (mt/ha), which is approximately 30 per cent higher than the global productivity level (1 mt/ha).

In the year 2000, total castor oil seed production was at 8.82 lakh mt, which has increased to 1.1 million mt in the year 2009. In the last decade (2000-2009), India's castor oil seed production has registered the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.5 per cent.

Producing states

The major castor producing States in India are Gujarat, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. Together, these States account for more than 90 per cent of total domestic production with Gujarat being the largest castor oil seed producing State. Gujarat also leads in terms of productivity with a yield of 1.71 mt/ha. The major districts where castor is cultivated in Gujarat are Banaskantha, Gandhinagar, Kutch, Mehsana, Patan, Rajkot and Surendranagar.

On the other hand, Rajkot, Ahmedabad, Gondal, Gadwal and Bhabar are the main trading centres for castor in the State. In 2010, domestic castor oil seed price varied in the range of Rs 2,440 (February) to Rs 3,194 (November) a quintal, with yearly average price of approximately Rs 2,818 a quintal.

After looking at the growth of lubricant and grease, coatings, personal care, surfactants and oleochemicals industries, the demand for castor oil is going to increase in time to come and India will be the front runner in controlling global trade.

Given the competitive advantage and edge that India has over other countries in this crop, the country should focus on development of varieties that are resistant to lepidopteron pests — which is the major cause of value loss at the field level. Given that castor is a non-food crop, developing genetically modified varieties that are resistant to lepidopteron pests could be an important focus that could take the productivity of the crop to higher levels.

Source: YES Bank