Castor (Ricinus communis Linn.) is an important non-edible oilseed crop grown almost entirely in the arid and semi-arid regions in the country. The crop, an important cash crop is grown for its beans from which oil is extracted. The castor oil is mainly used in the manufacture of paints, lubricants, soaps, hydraulic brake fluids, polymers, perfumery products, etc. There are several derivatives of castor oil, which are used in a variety of industries. India is the world’s largest producer of castor beans. Brazil and China are the other major producers of castor beans and castor oil in the world. The global demand for castor oil is estimated to be about 1 billion pounds worth US$ 500 million.
During the year 2000-01, the crop was grown in about 11 lakh ha in the country giving a total output of nearly 9 lakh tonnes of castor. The area under castor has increased from about 7 lakh ha to 11 ha during the period 1990-91 to 2000-01. Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Karnataka are the major castor producing states in India. Among these, Gujarat alone accounts for more than 50 per cent of castor production. The area under castor was observed to be in creasing in Rajasthan in the recent period.
Temporal Changes in Castor Production in India
The area under castor increased from about 4 lakh ha in 1970 to 5 lakh ha in 1980 and to about 8 lakh ha in 1990. Thus, the area under castor expanded at a faster rate during the 1980s. The area, production and productivity of castor in India showed long-term growth rates of 2.3, 6.8 and 4.4 per cent, respectively. The crop gained area at faster rates during the mid-1980s when the oilseed crops in generally enjoyed policy support under the Technology Mission on Oilseeds launched to achieve self-sufficiency in oilseed production. The oilseed prices received price support under the programme and as a result, there was a steep rise in the procurement prices. Such a favourable price attracted farmers to grow oilseeds and in the process, oil seeds replaced coarse cereals and pulses in many areas of the country (Gulati and Kelley, 2001).
Constraints to Productivity Growth
Significant yield gaps between the realizable and realized yields were observed (Kiresur et al, 1995). Bridging such yield gaps will be helpful in improving the yield levels substantially. Among various constraints that limit the productivity levels, availability of quality seed of the cultivars suited to the local conditions is the most critical constraint faced by the farmers (Reddy et al., 1997). Availability of adequate soil moisture during the crop growth, the incidence of pests and diseases and inadequate access to use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides are the other important factors that limit the productivity of castor.
Distribution of Quality Seed in India
Various government and private agencies are involved in production and distribution of certified quality seed of castor. The distribution of quality seed in the country increased from about 1500 tonnes in 1989-90 to about 3000 tonnes in 1996-97 and then declined to 26000 tonnes in 1997-98 (Fig. 4) (Directorate of Oilseeds, 2000). The quantity of the seed distributed to the farmers is far less than the requirement even with the low replacement ratio. It is not uncommon to see long queues at the seed distribution counters of the government agencies. As a result, farmers use the seed saved from their harvest for a number of seasons. As a result, the cultivar loses its genetic purity and is subject to ‘run down.
Castor Seed Multiplication at Gunegal Research Farm (GRF)
Castor is an important crop in the drylands in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh where the farm is located. Castor is a major dryland crop in this region, generally produced in rotation with sorghum. Considering the importance of the crop and the scarcity of quality seed, CRIDA has considered multiplying quality and reliable castor seed in its research farm located at Gunegal so that the farmers in the neighbouring villages are benefited. During the year 2002-03, the castor seed (var. kranthi) multiplication was taken in 10 ha of land in the farm.
Kranthi is the preferred variety in the region. Before presenting the results it is to be added that the seed produced and distributed by GRF is not certified seed in its strict definition. However, enough precautions and all the measures required to produce healthy and pure seed were taken. The package of practices recommended for seed multiplication in castor was adopted. Further, seed treatment and germination tests were conducted before allowing sales to the farmers. Thus, we prefer to call this seed truthful seed or GRF seed.
Economics of Castor Seed Multiplication
As with any other investment, seed multiplication has also to compete with other uses for attracting investment of public and private resources. It is therefore attempted to make an economic analysis of castor seed multiplication from three different perspectives – viz., farmers, the Institute (CRIDA) and the society. The economics of use of quality seed is examined from the farmers’ perspective whereas the costs incurred and revenue generated was looked into in the analysis from the CRIDA’s perspective. Since CRIDA is a publicly funded organization, the returns to society as a whole are examined in the economic analysis.
- Central institue of dryland agriculture