Report of National workshop on Protocol Development for Sustainable Governance of NTFP Resources
Cultivation and Harvesting

Annato (Bixa orellana)

Among the natural dyes annato appears to be the only one, which has great economic and commercial importance. Annato dye is a non-toxic natural product, used as colouring agent for various food products. It was also used for colouring silk and cotton. Due to increased demand for natural colour dye, the cultivation of Annato has gained prominence in recent years.
Origin and source:
The plant is of American origin. In India it is grown in the states of Karnataka, tamil nadu, Andhra pradesh, Orissa, Assam, West Bengal and Maharashtra.
Cultivation details
Climate :
It is a tropical plant, hence requires warm, dry climate. It cannot tolerate wet and foggy climate. Average temperature ranging from 32-380C is suitable for its growth.
Soil :
It can be cultivated on wide range of soils from loam to lateritic soils with moderate fertility. It can be cultivated on shady wastelands also. But soils with water logging condition are not suitable for its growth.
Propagation :
The plant is propagated either from seeds or vegetatively by using stem cuttings. It cannot withstand frost.
Land Preparation :
The land is prepared by ploughing twice or thrice and leveled; then soil is mixed well with farmyard manure at the time of last ploughing. Irrigation channels are prepared in the prepared soil. pits of 35x35x35 cm size at a distance of 3x3 mts. are prepared and filled with manure.
Raising nursery beds and transplanting :
Seedlings are raised in the nursery beds and then transplanted in the fields. The best suited period for raising nursery is between April-May, before the onset monsoon. For raising nursery, bags containing mixture of soil and manure are prepared; seeds are sown in these bags and irrigated regularly. Within 8-10 days, seeds germinate. When they attain height of 1 foot they are transplanted in the main field at the onset of monsoon i.e. second weak of June, the seedlings are transplanted, and irrigated lightly, immediately after planting. On an average, 400-seedlings/ acre can be planted.
Irrigation :
The plants are irrigated well, so as to ensure their good growth.
Flowering and fruiting :
The plants start flowering in the second or third year after planting in the month of August and continue till the end of November. For getting good crop and better yield in subsequent years the flowers are plucked off during the first and second year. The plant continues to yield flowers for almost 15 to 20 years. Though, the time of flowering differs with the form of species, the plants bearing fruits after 3 years of planting are reported to be of good quality. Within 25 to 30 days flowering, capsules begin to bear on the trees. These capsules mature and dry up in the next 3 to 4 months.
Harvesting :
The died capsules are harvested when the fruit capsules make rattling sound. If the capsules are not harvested at this stage, they burst out and there is heavy loss of seeds.
Post harvesting value addition
After collection the harvested capsules are sun dried for some time. Then the capsules are separated by beating with sticks.
Yield :
The annatto plant yields about 2 kg. of seed for about 20 years.
The yield of seeds from a hectare plantation is around 450 kgs (average)
Economics of Annato cultivation :

Ist year

IInd year





Cost of seedlings @ Rs. 12/ plant (400 plannts/ acre)
Land preparation & lay out
Raising nursery & maintenance
Manure/ fertilizers
Labour charges


Manure/ fertilizers



Rs.18, 300


Rs. 4000

Total expenditure = Ist + IInd year
18,300 + 4000 = Rs. 22,300
Output from second year :
0.5 to 1.0 kg seeds per tree 0.5 kg x 450 = 225 kgs
Sale price per kg = 225 x 35 = Rs. 8600
Output from third year onwards :
2-3 kgs of seeds per tree (2.0 kg x 450 = 900 kgs)
Sale price per kg = Rs. 35 per kg = Rs. 31, 500

Source :

  • Cultivation of medicinal plants by Dr. C.K.Kokate, Dr. A.S.Gokhle and Prof. S.B.Gokhle
  • Production technology of medicinal and aromatic crops by Dr. A.A.Farooqi, Dr. M.M.Khan and Dr. M.Vasundhara.