Oil Castor, a Zimbabwean tech firm, has revealed that it disbursed $550,000 out of the $1.2 million earmarked to pay local castor beans farmers for deliveries made.
The tech firm runs an exchange initiative where rural castor bean farmers buy engineered seed from the firm and upon harvest, the firm buys back the produce.
Co-founder of Oil Castor, Mr. Alvaro Arellano in an interview said Zimbabwe produces an average quality of castor bean and the best quality comes from Karoi, Mashonaland West province.
“We’re at about $550,000 and we are looking at $650,000 by end of May in payments to farmers.
“We hope to spend between $1 million and $1.2 million paying the farmers this year.
“The best quality is coming from Karoi. Very hot and humid areas do well. However, other areas like Marondera and Gweru are producing acceptable quality beans.”
Oil Castor as at last year paid castor bean producers about $500,000 as opposed to the $700,000 target which an adverse effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr. Alvaro said his firm which is situated in the capital of Zimbabwe was not spared from the demeaning effects of the pandemic.
“COVID-19 has taken an emotional toll on farmers. Many farmers who lost a loved one, just gave up on farming or had no will to do it anymore.
“For us, we had a worker who had COVID, so, we shut down for a month, and now we are only working through distributors.
“We are slowly eliminating dealing with the direct public,” he said.
The firm, over the years, has been encouraging local farmers to diversify into castor bean production under its engineered seed initiative.
The firm uses the harvested seeds to produce motor/hydraulic oil, bio-diesel, a wide range of cosmetics oil and soaps, amongst other products, which are now exported around the globe.
However, it is hoped that if more farmers can venture into castor oil production, it would be a feasible means of solving Zimbabwe’s fuel situation.