Castor Oil

Castor plant is a tropical plant that belongs to the Euphorbiaceous family and is grown for its non-edible oilseed. In scientific terms, this plant is also termed as Ricinus communes. This plant has purple coloured stalks and large blue-green coloured leaves of palmate shape.

The oil obtained from the seeds of this plant is a very useful raw material in many industries like soap, surface coatings, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, perfumes, greases and lubricants etc. Also the oil is used in a large number of medicines. That is why the seeds and oil of this plant make very important and valuable commodities that are traded in the market.

Overview:
Castor is a plant that is commercially very important to the world. Having known that how useful is the oil obtained from it, it must also be known that the castor seed oil cake is very useful manure to other crops. This crop needs a tropical type of climate to develop. That's why the castor is largely found in the countries lying in the tropical belt of the world. To derive the oil from the seeds of the plant, the processes of expression or decoction are used to press the seeds but the seeds as a whole are also traded in the market. The seeds generally contain 48% oil content and the rest becomes the part of oil cake.

World's average total production of Castor seed figures around 12.5 lakh tons and is cultivated in more than 30 countries of the world. India is the world's largest producer of castor and its derivatives contributing to almost 65% share. Likewise India is also the leading producer of castor seed oil, which has its annual world production hovering around 5.5 lakh tons. Due to its end number of uses in various industries, castor oil has a high level of demand in the world that is still constantly rising at 3 to 5% per annum. The major consumer countries of castor oil with their annual consumption figures are:

  • European Union (110000 MT)
  • India (100000 MT)
  • China (80000 MT)
  • Brazil (40000 MT)
  • USA (40000 MT)
  • Japan (20000 MT)
  • Thailand (15000 MT)
  • Others (10000 MT)

The world production of this crop is concentrated in the hands of few countries and that is why there are just a few exporters of castor oil fulfilling a large level of demand of the world. The major exporters of castor oil are the leading producing countries of it namely India, China and Brazil from which only India has been successfully meeting the domestic and the world requirements. The country holds a share of 70% in the total exports. The other two countries have experienced an increase in their domestic demand and hence are not capable of exporting a high quantity of oil. The leading countries in the list of imports of castor oil with their importing figures are:

  • European Union (110000 MT)
  • USA (40000 MT)
  • Japan (20000 MT)
  • Thailand (15000 MT)
  • Others (10000 MT)

History:
The history of castor plant is not very clear. It is said that this plant originated in the tropical belt of India and Africa. The Sanskrit language gave the ancient name of castor i.e. 'Eranda'. It was also called by various other names in different languages.

Herodotus, the father of history, stated that the Egyptians used a type of oil to burn their lamps and for other purposes, which was made by the seeds of Ricinus in the fourth century BC. He named it Kiki and till now castor is cultivated in Greece by the same name. Theophrastus and Dioscorides, who stated that the oil of the plant is not worth eating but is very good if applied externally as a medicine, gave the detailed description of the plant at around 1st century. They also stated the process of extracting oil from the seeds of the plant. This plant was cultivated till fifteenth century but due to the negative impacts that it has, it slowly started becoming unpopular and by the eighteenth century, its production practically ceased in Europe and the countries started fulfilling their requirements by importing the oil from Jamaica. This is the period in which its name changed to castor.

The dark side of this plant oil was observed in the fascist Italy when under the leadership of Mussolini, castor oil was used to give punishments to the people who opposed the established fascist government. They were forced to consume this oil that in turn leads them to death.

Cultivation Pattern:
Castor is basically a tropical crop and it can survive in arid conditions. It is an annual crop and is grown by sowing the seeds in a hot weather. Castor can survive on various types of soils but it requires an appropriate and consistent rainfall. In India, it is grown as a kharif crop and is planted generally during the months of July and August. The crop has a duration period of 4 to 5 months and is generally harvested in the months of December and January. However the sowing and harvesting periods within the country differ according to the different regions where the crop is grown. Also, the region only decides that whether the crop is to be grown as a sole crop or a mixed crop. It starts to come to the market from October and comes till April.

Castor producing countries:
As already mentioned, Castor is produced in about 30 countries lying in the tropical belt of the world. The production of this crop is concentrated in the hands of a fewer countries and that is why the world production of castor and its derivatives is highly fluctuating. Any change in the trend of the production of any of those countries leads to change in the level of world production. The world production of castor seed hovers around at an average of 12.5 lakh tons and of castor oil is 5.5 lakh tons. The major producer countries of castor are:

  • India
  • China
  • Brazil
  • Paraguay
  • Ethiopia
  • Philippines
  • Russia
  • Thailand

The top most country in the list is India with around 65% of the share in production followed by China with 23% and Brazil with 7% of share. The world production levels observed a sharp rise in the year 2001 which took the level to 17.5 lakh tons but it again fell down due to crop failure. Since few years, the countries China and Brazil are having an increase in their domestic consumption demand and hence are consuming a greater share of their production and exporting lesser leaving India to be the dominant player in the international market.

Production of castor in India:
India being the largest producer of the castor contributes to around 65 % of the world's total production. India produces around 8 lakh tons of castor seed and around 3 lakh tons of castor oil. The states in the country that are the major producers of castor are:

  • Gujarat
  • Andhra Pradesh
  • Rajasthan
  • Karnataka
  • Orissa
  • Tamil Nadu
  • Maharashtra

The leading of them all is Gujarat, which contributes to 86% of the total castor seeds produced in the country. The districts in Gujarat namely Mehsana, Banaskantha, Sabarkantha, Gandhinagar, Ahmadabad and Kutch are indulged in the production of Castor and it produces around .36 million tons. Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan follow Gujarat in the production of castor seed with .14 and .10 million tons respectively. Andhra Pradesh relies on its districts namely Nalgonda, Mehboobnagar, Prakasam, Guntur and Ranga Reddy for the production of the state. The total area on which castor is produced in India is around 6.25 lakh hectare.

Indian castor market:
Oils and oilseeds have played an important role in the Indian economy for a long time. India produces a large variety of oilseeds including rapeseed, groundnut, sunflower etc that earn the country huge share of foreign exchange. Castor seed is a non-edible oilseed that is produced for its very useful oil.

India is the largest producer of castor seed and oil. It contributes about 8 lakh tons of castor seed with an approximate of 65% share and 3 lakh tons of castor oil with an approximate of 51% share in the world total production. Gujarat is India's leading castor producing state constituting to around 86% of the country's total produce. India nearly consumes 1/4th of its total production and exports the rest but it still is the second largest consumer in the world. The major sources of demand of castor oil are the various industries like soap, lubricant and paint industries and the demand of the oil is spread all across of country. This crop is grown over 6.25 lakh hectares of the country.

As it is mentioned before, India exports 75% of its total production of castor and its derivatives. India exports around 3 lakh tons of castor oil that is worth Rs 700 crores and stands at the top position in the list of major castor oil exporting countries. India exports castor oil in two forms namely First Special grade and Castor Oil Commercial. This figure of exports from India is on a rising trend and much of the world's requirements are fulfilled by India only. The countries that imports castor oil from India are:

  • European Union
  • USA
  • Japan
  • China
  • Thailand

Though, India is a dominant player in the world market, it is just a price taker and not a price setter due to its poor infrastructure but it has the capability to improve on the exports of the derivatives of castor and overcome this limitation.

Market Influencing Factors:

  • Production and acreage variations
  • Monsoon and rainfall level
  • Size of the yield level of other countries
  • Prices of other competitive oils
  • Demand of the importing countries and domestic demand
  • Seasonal price variations
  • Hoarding and black-marketing
  • Carry over stocks
  • Development of new uses of the oil

Major trading centres of castor:
The major trading centres of castor and its derivatives in India are :-

  • Rajkot (Gujarat)
  • Ahmadabad (Gujarat)
  • Gondal (Gujarat)
  • Gadwall (Gujarat)
  • Bhabar (Gujarat)
  • Disa (Gujarat)
  • Kadi (Gujarat)
  • Jedcherla (Andhra Pradesh)
  • Yemignoor (Andhra Pradesh)

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