India – the world’s largest producer of castor seed –is expected see a 25% fall in its production of this oilseed to 1.07M tonnes for the 2016/17 season, against 1.42M tonnes the previous year, according to a crop survey released by Nielsen India, reports Hindu Business Line.

The fall was due to farmers turning to alternative crops such as groundnut, cotton, pulses and spices because of low castor seed prices. This resulted in a 26% decline in the castor area to 845,000ha, against 1.14M ha in 2015/16.

Gujarat, the largest castor seed producing state, saw the biggest shift from the oilseed to other crop. Its castor area fell 28%.

Atul Chaturvedi, president of the Solvent Extractors’ Association (SEA) of India, told the Global Castor Conference in India on 18 February that India was the world’s largest producer of castor seed, meeting nearly 90% of global demand. It currently exported castor oil and derivatives worth over US$850M/year.

Meanwhile world castor seed production is expected to plummet to around 1.24M tonnes in 2016/17, down from 1.61M tonne last season and down the most recent five-year average of 1.65M tonnes, according to a report in the February 2017 SEA newsletter.

“The major decline is occurring in India,” the report said.

China is the second largest producing of castor seed, followed by Brazil and Thailand, a table in the SEA newsletter showed.

In China, castorseed production was unusually low at only 35,000-40,000 tonnes in 2016/17 but there were indications that increased investments had taken place in expanding cultivation, the report said.

“This is expected to bear fruit with a sizable recovery in the country’s castor seed production in 2017/18. Some observers point out that the crop will probably be increased to 80,000-100,000 tonnes.”

Production had also fallen in Brazil due to unfavourably dry weather and unattractive prices reducing farmers’ interest in the crop.