Castor Cultivation and Yields in China

The table below provides the production rate of castor seed in china, during the years 2011-12 and 2012-13.

  Production (‘000 T) Area Harvested(‘000 Ha)        Yield  (T/H)
175 180 210 210 0.86 0.86

It can be seen from the above table that the yields of castor seeds in China are almost on par of those in India (which is about 1 T/ha/year. An earlier post showed how the yield is far lower in Brazil.

China is the second largest producer of castor. It contributes about 7-10% of the world‘s castor seeds production.  It uses about 60% of its castor oil for the production of Sebacic acid.

In 2011, China exported 0.13 million T of castor oil, which increased to 0.18 million T in 2012 and estimated to be 0.17 million T in 2013.

Emerging Application of Castor oil in Personal Care Sector

Castor oil and derivatives are widely used in soaps, creams (tretinoin), shampoos, perfumes, lip gels, lipsticks, hair oils, deodorants, lubricants, sunscreens, and other personal care products.

It has been used in skin care products for centuries, and continues to play an important part in soaps and cosmetics.

Cosmetics manufacturers use castor oil and its derivatives in formulating non-comedogenic cosmetics (cosmetics that don’t exacerbate or contribute to acne) and emollients.

The major companies using castor oil for cosmetics are given in the table.

Company Country Products castor derivatives used in Derivative Used
Lavera USA Deodorants, body lotion, sunscreen Zinc ricinoleate and HCO
Avene USA Deodorant Zinc ricinoleate
Jason USA Body lotion and deodorants Zinc ricinoleate
Arkema France Hair care, beauty creams Undecylenic acid
Aveya Beauty USA Hair care products Castor oil basic grades
Worlee Cosmetics Germany Natural exfoliants HCO

The global demand for organic personal care products is expected to reach $13.2 billion by 2018, growing at a CAGR of 9.6 per cent.

Castor today contributes only a small % to this sector, but the potential is much higher.

Applications of Castor oil in Specialty Chemicals and Biofuels Market

Castor Oil for Specialty Chemicals

Specialty chemicals market is a $700 billion + market worldwide, with high profit margins.

Given castor oil unique versatility, there could be a number of niche applications within specialty chemicals, other than the ones already exploited.

More “entrepreneurial” research needs to be undertaken in this direction.

Castor Oil for Biofuels

While there has been a lot of debate about the use of castor oil for biodiesel, we feel that it is not a viable route. Sure, technically castor oil might be suitable to make biodiesel, except perhaps for its high kinematic viscosity, which could even be taken care of during transesterification.

The more important dimensions are the economics and volumes which make castor oil quite unattractive as a feedstock for biodiesel:

  • Economics – Price of biodiesel needs to be in the range $900-$1000 per ton; price of castor oil alone is $1300/T.
  • Volumes – World produces about 20 million T of biodiesel every year; world castor oil production is less than 1 million T!

In fact, we have been generous on the price aspect. If the current downtrend in crude prices continues, biodiesel might have to sell at less than $700 per T. We dont see how castor oil could support such a price.

On volumes, castor is produced in such small quantities, it really is going to make little difference overall to the biodiesel market.

And when especially the same castor oil oil could be sold at a much higher price to end users who would be willing to pay a much higher price for the oil or the derivative, we do not see how castor oil biodiesel could work out on any sizable scale.

Yield, Productivity and Toxicity Challenges in Castor Industry

There are three major issues with respect to castor yield and productivity challenges. They are

  • Castor cultivation of crop on marginal lands without inputs (fertilizers and irrigation) produces poor yields
  • Lack of improved varieties and hybrids
  • Lack of mechanization in cultivation & harvesting

Toxicity Challenge

  • The ricin in castor crop is a barrier to its cultivation in many developed countries – especially US and parts of Europe
  • GM castor with no ricin could be a solution

Apart from this, there are other challenges faced in castor industry. They are:

  • Difficulty in further expansion of area in India primarily due to lack of seed marketing to non-traditional areas
  • Grown under rain-fed condition without following improved package of practices
  • Lack of suitable cultivars for intercropping system
  • Lack of resistant/ tolerant varieties/hybrids for eating caterpillars and macrophomma disease

Possible Solution to Overcome Price and Supply Volatility Challenge

With India dominating castor production with over 80% of the total global production, it gives rise to a number of constraints and challenges. One of them being the price and supply volatility owing to the entire world depending on one country for supplies.

Thus, one of the ways to overcome the price and supply volatility challenge is to increase the geographical diversity of cultivation.

Emerging Geographies are


  • Mexico


  • Ethiopia
  • Angola
  • South Africa

Asia & Middle East

  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Philippines
  • Israel

Emerging Techniques and Research to Increase Yield in Castor

Increasing the yield of castor from 1 T/hectare per year (the average right now in India) to something much higher is a highly desirable outcome, but not very easy.

The best way to overcome yield challenge in castor industry is to concentrate more on research and development (R&D) area.

Many techniques are emerging in R&D sector to increase the yield of castor. These include

  • Hybrids: Selection of Hybrids to increase yield, branching, non-shattering and high oil content. e.g.- HC1, HC2,…8 also, advanced hybrids like TSP 10R VP1 lata, etc.
  • Cross Pollination: Under natural conditions, cross pollination in castor can exceed 80%, but the actual level of cross pollination is dependent on both genotype and environmental conditions. Germplasm storage under cryogenic conditions keeps up the viability of seeds even after 30 days
  • Other techniques like enriching the soil with zinc content

High Yield Castor Varieties in India

While India currently average about 1 T/hectare per year for castor seeds, there is potential for much higher yield.

As part of the research to increase yields, efforts have been going on in India for high yielding varieties of castor.

The table below shows the various high yielding castor varieties produced by different states across India.

State Variety Hybrid
Andhra Pradesh Aruna, Bhagya, Sowbhagya, Kranti (PCS-4), Jwala, DCS-9
(Jyothi), Kiran (PCS-136), Haritha (PCS-124).
Uttar Pradesh Kalpi-6, T-3, T-4
Gujarat GAUC-1, VI-9, S-20, J-1andGCH 7 CH-1, GCH-2, GCH-3, GCH6, SHB-145, GCH-7 and(SKP 84 x SKI 215
Tamil Nadu TMV-1, TMV-2, TMV-3, TMV-5, SA-1, SA-2, TMV-4,Jyothi, CO-1 TMVCH-1and TMVCG*
Karnataka Jwala (48-1), RC-8, Jyothi
Maharashtra AKC-1, Girija GCH-6
Rajasthan GCH-6, RHC-1
Haryana CH-1
Punjab Pb. No.1
For all states Gujarat Castor-2 DCH-32 (Deepti)DCH-177 (Deepak)GCH-4, GCH-5, DCH 519
For entire country DCH 519 M 574 x DCS 78

Price and Volatility Challenges in Castor Industry

One of the key challenges faced in the castor industry is the price and volatility challenges.

This blog post looks briefly at why this challenge exists and how it affects the industry.

The main reasons for price volatility are:

  • One country dominating production, and one state dominating within the country
    • Drastic changes in area under cultivation owing to unorganized nature of farming
    • Significant changes in seed output owing to natural causes
    • Depleting stocks or surplus stock owing to carry forward
  • Fluctuating demand from export markets – the cause of this is to a certain extent the previous point

Price and Supply volatility can significantly affect the market growth and potential of castor industry as shown below.



Genetic Engineering Methods to Overcome Toxicity Challenges in Castor Industry

The toxicity of castor, in the form of ricin, is one of the key challenges that is slowing the adoption of castor as a crop in some countries, especially in the developed parts.

Toxicity challenges in castor industry can be overcome through genetic engineering.

An example of this is the Genetic Engineering of Lesquerella fendleri for castor oil production.

  • Seed oil of Lesquerella fendleri (Lf) contains a valuable hydroxy fatty acid (HFA), lesquerolic acid (20:1OH).
  • Lf does not have biological toxic compounds, thus its oil represents an alternative source of HFA. Lesquerolic acid is derived by a 2 carbon elongation of 18:1OH.
  • By suppressing the elongation step through genetic engineering, it is possible to generate a new Lf crop that could produce 18:1OH.

Novo Synthetix, USA has followed the genetic engineering technique in castor such that it no longer produces ricin. No new DNA is introduced, mainly tweaking of genes.

Castor Oil Polyurethane Biopolymer – An Emerging Application of Castor Oil – Part I

Biopolymers are an emerging application of castor oil and its derivatives. These biopolymers include castor based polyamides and castor based polyurethanes. (See also Castor Oil Biopolymers – Part II)

Castor Oil Polyurethane

Castor oil is increasingly finding application in the manufacture of polyurethane foams. The polyurethane is produced from polyols based on castor oil.

The world polyurethane market size is over $50 billion.

Features of Castor Oil Based Polyurethane:

Castor oil polyurethane is

  • Superior to PPG (Polypropylene Glycol) or polyester in water and hydrolysis resistance
  • Superior to PPG or polyester in insulation
  • Lower viscosity than polybutadiene or polyester
  • A challenging issue of polyurethane flooring is heat and humidity. The urethane produced from castor oil is stable under high heat and humidity.