Robust sowing, supported by increased water availability following extended rains, has brightened the castor crop prospects in the largest growing States, Gujarat and Rajasthan.
According to farmers and trade sources, the current crop condition appears good and the output is likely to cross 18 lakh tonnes, a likely record in at least the past seven years. In 2011-12, castor crop output was recorded at 16.2 lakh tonnes.
"Castor crop looks good at present and we believe that the crop size will be much higher than last year's. Farmers are estimating the crop to be between 17-19 lakh tonnes. Thanks to increased acreage and likely favourable climate, the crop will give a record output this year," said a castor trader from North Gujarat.
Gujarat is the largest producer of the oilseed, which is used by multiple industries. At 7,40,484 hectares, the State saw a nearly 39 per cent jump in castor sowing for kharif 2019, as against 5,33,789 hectares in the previous year.
Good castor prices last year have also encouraged farmers to take up the oilseed in a big way.
Rajasthan has also witnessed about 20 per cent rise in castor sowing at 1,54,200 hectares, as against 1,28,300 hectares in the previous year.
The Solvent Extractors' Association of India (SEA) estimated castor output for the year 2018-19 at about 9.35 lakh tonnes.
According to SEA officials, supportive monsoon and increased acreage will boost the prospects for the crop this year. "Our crop survey is under way and we will come out with crop projections in February. But at present, the crop looks good and if the climate remains favourable, we will have a better crop than last year's," BV Mehta, Executive Director, SEA told BusinessLine .
"We will have the highest crop output in at least past 4-5 years. Domestic demand looks good, while in the international market, multiple factors including US-China trade deal will hold the key to castor demand," said Rakesh Dhariwal of Maa Vankal Group, a leading trader in the commodity.
India is the largest producer of castor oil and feeds key markets, including China.
International prices currently hover in the range of $1,310 per tonne FOB. In the domestic market, however, the prices have corrected by about 15-18 per cent to Rs 4,379 a quintal since December last year.
Meanwhile, with a limited stock position in the inventory, accompanied by a month of delay in arrivals -- expected by March 2019 -- the downside in the prices will be limited.