A local firm Life Brand Agric Services is targeting to grow 25 000 hectares of castor bean this year in a move that could significantly boost income of farmers in the semi arid and arid regions of the country.
Output from the 25 000 hectares is expected to be 250 million kgs or 250 000 tonnes with the firm assuring farmers of a cool US$1000 a tonne.
Life brand chief operations officer Israel kembo said Castor beans are in high demand the world over and his organization had secured orders for the byproduct crude castor oil in the Middle East and China.
Currently global demand for Castor oil is US$1.7 trillion.
He said while the firm was prepared to pay farmers in hard currency as they have received advance payments from their foreign buyers they are ultimately bound by the Exchange control regulations enforced by the central bank.
“We have registered about 11 000 hectares to grow castor bean this year though we have enough seed for 25 000 hectares finding farmers is the challenge. Already we have off take agreements with Middle East and Chinese markets and we will convert the castor beans into crude oil and export to those markets. We are offering US$1000 a tonne to the farmer and will pay them hard currency provided the authorities allow us to do so.” said Kembo.
The commercialization of the project has potential to create over 500 000 jobs throughout the value chain and reduce the import bill for fuel, pharmaceuticals, lubricants, paints and livestock feed production which stands at US$2 billion.
The production of castor bean can earn the country up to US$7 billion in foreign exchange.
Kembo said one advantage of castor beans is that it was a drought resistant and it can be grown in all parts of the country with the exception of Nyanga and surrounding areas because of the low temperatures.
Binga district one of the most arid places in the country has already registered 2 300 hectares to grow castor bean.
Vice President Kembo Mohadi said government was enthused by the programme because of its export potential but encouraged the promoters to incorporate value addition.
“Mindful that real money does not lie in agricultural production but in related manufacturing sectors. We are encouraging our people to establish downstream industries which seek value addition for their purpose.
I am informed this plant has incredible industrial value, low demand for water and prolific growth even in harsh conditions of the marginal land. It is essentially a bush that our people can really leverage on for economic prosperity,” said VP Mohadi.