Annatto, the Pigment Of Bixa Orellana

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Dendy D.A.V
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Bixa orellana is a large, quick-growing shrub, native to tropioal America, and is cultivated there, in the Caribbean, in India. and, recently, in East Africa. The plant thrives from sea level to about 4,000 ft. in a moist climate, and prefers a deep, loamy, welldrained soil. Propagation takes place readily from seed, and the bushes may be spaced five to 15 ft. apart. Large clusters of brown or dark crimson, capsular, fruits are borne at the end of the branches; these contain a number of small seeds, the bright crimson covering of which affords the annatto of commerce. The fruits are collected when nearly ripe and are put to dry. As the shells dry, they burst open and the seeds can be threshed from the shells. A small crop may be obtained after the third year from planting: up to one ton of seeds per acre may be obtained at maturity (5 years). Plantations have recently been established in Kenya and Tanzania. At present the seeds are exported without processing and are said to fetch upwards of £60 per ton [I].
East African Agricultural And Forestry Journal, XXXII (2), p. 126-132