The Federal Government plans to engage 1,000 farmers this year as part of its commitment to boost castor value chain development in the country
The director-general of the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Dr Husseini Doko Ibrahim, made this known in an exclusive chat with LEADERSHIP in Abuja.
He said the council, saddled with the responsibility of promoting industrial utilisation of local raw materials, would engage the farmers under a programme to improve castor oil seeds for optimal production, which the council has been test-running in collaboration with a Chinese company, the Kong Associates Shaghai (China) Limited.
The RMRDC boss, who lamented that Nigeria spends a whooping sum of $50 billion annually on castor oil importation, said the project which is ongoing had seen the multi-locational trials of improved castor oil variety since 2013.
He said : “At present in Nigeria more than N50 billion is expended on the importation of castor oil and its derivatives for use in different industries. In view of the high industrial potentials of the seed across several industries, the RMRDC in line with its mandates of promoting industrial utilisation of local raw materials and the development and adaptation of existing equipment by the industrial sector, found it imperative to promote production and value chain development of castor seed processing locally.
“Now, the Institute of Agricultural Research, Zaria and National Cereals Research Institute have mandates for castor seed development. While the council is collaborating with these organisations, it is also exploring international opportunities for castor seed development in Nigeria. In recognition of the need to develop local castor varieties, RMRDC collaborated with Efugo Farms owned by Chief Audu Ogbe to carry out multi-locational trials on indigenous castor varieties in Nigeria.
“In the study which spanned a period of 3 years (2014 – 2016) and 6 locations among which are Zamfara, Gombe, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Ogbomoso in Oyo State, and Nasarawa states, local varieties supplied by IAR, Zaria; National Cereals Research Institute, Badeggi and the Castor Producers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria were used.
“The outcome of the study was very interesting. The three varieties developed at IAR, Zaria performed the best in all the locations. The average yield was 1.3 tonnes/hectare while those of the association and NCRI, Badeggi varieties came second and third respectively with average yields of 1.2 tonnes and 1.0 tonne respectively. Also in terms of oil yield, the varieties from IAR, Zaria had an average oil yield of 36 per cent, the association, 33 per cent and NCRI varieties 30 per cent.”
Ibrahim further said the council had been collaborating with Kong Associates Shaghai (China) Limited to promote the development of varieties that could be grown in the tropics for optimal production of seed and oil. Kong Associates in 2013 sent castor experts to Ghana to study the status of castor seed development in the country. Since then, the company has introduced more than 100 improved castor seed varieties from China to Ahafo region of Ghana for multilocational trials. In November 2017, the trials were finalised and Kong Associates has selected the most adaptable varieties to the tropics for commercial castor seed plantation development, he stated.
“The commercialisation plan is to employ 1,000 farmers to plant the improved varieties by August 2018. In view of extant collaboration between RMRDC, Kong Associates and the Castor Producers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria, the company gave Nigeria 1 tonne of seed for multi-locational trials in the country in 2017. The result of the trials that took place in Jos, Plateau State; Benin in Edo State and in Calabar, Cross River State was very encouraging. The average yield from the stands were about 1.3 to 1.5 tonnes per hectare, an improvement of about 88 per cent over local varieties presently being planted by local farmers,” he pointed out.
Noting further interventions for castor oil production, Ibrahim said the council in 1995 imported a 40 tonnes per day castor oil plant that was installed in Kaduna, pointing out that the plant was the pioneer castor oil processing plant in the country. He said the plant had been able to attract investment in castor oil production in the country.
“Today, there two other castor processing plants operating locally. The first one is owned and operated by Efugo Farms in Kuje, FCT, Abuja. The farm has 2 plants; the first plant has a capacity of 1 tonne per day while the second, a relatively new plant has a capacity of 40 tonnes per day. The other processing plant is owned by Traquil Mazab Farms in Ilorin, Kwara State. The capacity is also about 1 tonne per day,” he added.
He further said the council was studying the value chain of castor seed to promote its optimal development, adding it imported two castor shellers in 2017 to ease the drudgery associated with castor shelling.
“One has been given to the members of Castor Producers, Processors and Marketers Association while a consortium of local engineers is currently working on the design and fabrication of the other machine locally. According to the result obtained from the study by experts, castor value chain in Nigeria is comprised of six principal players; input suppliers who supply the farmers with planting materials and technology; the farmers, who perform all the production and harvesting functions; the processors who buy the seeds to extract the oil; the marketers and exporters who buy and sell the castor seed, oil and cake and end users.
“Although production and processing are still low, with promotional activities by RMRDC and other government agencies geared towards creating awareness, providing planting materials and modern process technology, there are signs of growth in this sector,” he added.