LEADING oil processing giant company, Castor Oil, has embarked on a programme to support small-scale and commercial farmers in growing the essential castor beans crop, which the firm believes has a potential to boost Zimbabwe’s fuel capacity.
BY BRENNA MATENDERE/ TERRY MADYAUTA
In an interview with NewsDay Business yesterday, Castor Oil Zimbabwe chief executive Careen Yosef said the conglomerate was willing to support more farmers in the country who were willing to specialise in engineered castor beans production.
“We are encouraging farmers from across the board to take up this income-generating plant. As you might know, castor bean can be used in the production of cosmetics, but most importantly, it can be used in the generation of fuel,” he said.
“We are ready to assist small-scale farmers willing to come aboard with knowledge and areas of need, which we feel the company has capacity to assist.”
To date, an estimated 150 local commercial farmers are producing the engineered castor bean which comes from Israel.
The engineered castor bean is one of the accepted biomasses which have been taken up by farmers in Europe and some parts of Africa as a renewable fuel.
It can also be used in the production of cosmetics and hydraulic oil for motor vehicles.
Currently, the demand for diesel in the country is higher than that of petrol, averaging around three million litres per day, while petrol averages two million litres per day.
Yosef believes if the castor bean farming is taken up, the plant can be used in generating diesel, a development that will augment existing sources.
“Our aim is to industrialise the country, create a huge income base for farmers. At the moment, we have over 400 small-scale farmers in rural areas who took up castor bean (farming), with 150 commercial famers already having started haversting,” she said.
Yosef revealed that castor bean takes at least four months from germination to harvesting, which makes brisk business for farmers specialising in growing it as they will rake in income three times a year.
Castor Oil has already set up a processing plant in Marondera, where they produce bio-diesel from the castor bean and hope to scale up production if more farmers start growing the crop.
Meanwhile, the company has employed a unique strategy to excite farmers into castor beans growing.
The firm has lately been sponsoring a Miss Rural Africa modelling pageant, which is meant to encourage rural women to get involved in the production of the engineered castor bean.