Annatto is a tree commonly called as lipstick tree.Its botanical name is Bixa orellana and it grows in tropical regions.The seeds of this plant are covered with a bright orange to red pulpy layer,from which a commercial colour material is extracted.
The exclusion of many artificial colours in the western market from the list of permitted additives has further increased its value.The plant is an evergreen shrub and is indigenous to Central and tropical South America.The tree has been introduced in Andhra Pradesh by some entrepreneurs and is thriving well as a plantation crop.
The seeds have a huge demand across the world as they are natural colour agents and are considered to be non-carcinogenic.The seeds also have healing properties.The Annatto seed which is used as lipstick is cultivated in the backyard of Adivasi habitations in Rampachodavaram,Chaparai and Maredumilli in Andhra Pradesh.
Besides lipstick,the plant’s seed extract is used as a natural colouring agent in cheese,food preparations across the world.However,these rare seeds have no fixed price as there is no organised trade in the tribal areas of Andhra Pradesh.
Further,the seeds command much higher value in the international market.According to sources,about 250 tonnes of Annatto is exported from India every year and it is mainly grown and marketed in Andhra Pradesh,Kerala,West Bengal,Madhya Pradesh,Assam,Maharashtra, Odisha and Karnataka.