LIFE Brand Agricultural Services has launched a castor bean growing programme as part of measures to boost agricultural production in the country with a bias on exports.

Castor seed is used to extract castor oil, which has high economic value and could assist the country to earn more foreign currency through exports.

Experts view castor oil as one of the most versatile oil types for industrial purposes. Life Brand Agricultural Services managing director, Mr Isdory Kembo said the growing of castor bean will be a game changer for the farmers as the crop has a ready global market in which demand far outstrips supply.

“As a country we need to promote non-edible agriculture crops for industrial use. This has the potential to stimulate our economy by over $5 billion within a calendar year. Castor oil has many uses with the seed, stem, leaves and roots of the tree also having many uses,” he said.

“Castor beans have a lot of economic benefits and are fairly drought resistant and the crop is produced throughout the year.”

Mr Kembo said castor beans can be harvested three times a year and can be used to produce several by-products, which can help reduce the import bill. Zimbabwe imports related products such as castor oil, fertiliser, biodiesel, plastic and stock feed among others.

Currently, the firm is propagating 800 hectares under irrigation to produce seeds, which will then be distributed for dry planting in the 2018-2019 season. The agro-company has seen the establishment of centres countrywide where farmers will be able to access the seed. Hopes are high that high value crops are instrumental in changing the livelihoods of farmers all over Zimbabwe.

Life Brand Agricultural Services is one of the latest companies to embrace national agricultural initiatives after Sakunda Energy helped fund the Specialised Maize Production and Import Substitution Programme (Command Agriculture). — @queentauruszw