Commodities

Castor farmers rake it in with new farming methods, cropping pattern

Rutam Vora Palanpur (Gujarat) | Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on February 07, 2017

Reaping gold: Farmer Maganbhai Patel at a castor farm in Gujarat’s Palanpur district; (inset) a castor seed

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Solvent extractors’ body leads change

Castor seed cultivation, which had lost farmers’ interest owing to higher input costs and reduced margins, is set to catch their fancy again. New farming techniques are making it more economical and high-yielding for the farmers.

According to recent research conducted by the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India (SEA) on about 300 bigha (approx 120 acres) of land spread over two districts in Gujarat, input costs have gone down by 25-30 per cent with an equal rise in yields in the initial two harvests.

After witnessing peak rates at around ₹6,200 per quintal in 2010-11, castor seed had became the most preferred crop for kharif sowing. The crop, which usually has five-six harvests, has an average yield of 1,252 kg per hectare nationally.

However, farmers had shifted to cultivating pulses and potato after castor prices almost halved in subsequent years, rendering it unattractive. Prices have hovered in the ₹3,325-3,400 per quintal range since 2012.

According to farmers, the cost of castor cultivation is around ₹18,000 per bigha (or ₹45,000 per acre). Considering the current yield of around 8-14 quintal per bigha, they make anywhere between ₹27,200 and ₹47,000 per bigha at an average price of around ₹3,400 per quintal.

A fall in castor prices shrunk the margins for the farmers.

According to Gujarat Agriculture Department data, castor sowing in the State fell 27 per cent to 565,400 hectares for kharif 2016 against 781,400 hectares in the previous year. Gujarat produces over 80 per cent of India’s total production of 14,22,000 tonnes (2015-16).

“In the pilot project, 62 farmers from Banaskantha and Arvalli districts of Gujarat joined SEA’s Castor Yield Increase programme. The objective was to reduce use of water, pesticides and fertilisers and cut costs while raising the yield by changing the cropping pattern,” said Haresh Vyas, project in-charge and Co-Chairman, SEA Castor Seeds and Oil Promotion Council.

Trimming costs

“Farmers can cultivate castor seed on a reduced area and yet get higher yield by following the new cropping pattern as suggested by SEA. In the last 10 years, costs have risen 60 per cent, mostly on fertilisers, pesticides and water. The new technique saves costs to a great extent as it cuts the consumption of all these inputs,” said Maganbhai Patel, a leading castor farmer.

The Dantiwada Agriculture University has provided GCH 7, a new hybrid variety of castor seeds, free of cost to farmers.

“We are now planning to expand the pilot project to five districts of Gujarat and Rajasthan by including more farmers. Next year we plan to have over 1,500 bigha (or 600 acres) with more than 300 farmers,” added Vyas.

Castor is known for its longer shelf-life and assured good returns due to multiple industrial applications including drilling and cosmetics.

Published on February 07, 2017
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