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Varsity cultivates lipstick tree in Purulia

Varsity cultivates lipstick tree in Purulia
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Kolkata: Sidho Kanho Birsha University (SKBU) has been successful in cultivation of lipstick tree at Bagmundi and Barabazar block in Purulia which can be widely used for colouring foodstuffs, soft drinks, dying of textiles, cosmetics and ethnopharmacological purposes. The researchers claim that Bixin, a red coloured carotenoid that is present in seed aril of this plant is an inexpensive substitute for saffron and the plant can emerge as a substitute to conventional synthetic colour that is added to foodstuff but can lead to to public health hazards including carcinoma.

"The dyes that are popular in the market particularly the red coloured one is toxic and can lead to various health hazards. So we have been looking for an alternative. This is an exact substitute for saffron. Most importantly as it is soluble in both water and oil it can be used for preparation of jam, jelly, sweets, kheer, payesh, ice cream etc and also in Biriyani, Chicken and Mutton items, Jalebis and similar products that require oil for cooking," said Subrata Raha, Principal Investigator of DST – STI hub project of the union government where the varsity is playing the role of knowledge institution.

The colour can also be used in lipsticks and cosmetics and thus can be a natural alternative to the conventional colour that is harmful to skin. It can also be used as a textile colour. The tribal people use this for body colour.

SKBU has kicked off the cultivation of the plant from this monsoon season at Barabazar and Bagmundi block. A handful of exporters have already seen the quality of the production and have given assurance for marketing.

Lipstick plant or 'annatto' is native to tropical central and South America. It was introduced in India by the British as an ornamental plant. It is cultivated in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.

The plants start production within two years and yield continues for at least 20 years without any care. A plant produces nearly 2.5 kg seeds and the minimum rate is Rs 500 per kg. So a single plant gives seeds worth Rs 2500 per year

"The trial plantation has revealed the potentiality of high productivity in the arid zone of Purulia and hence considering the demand of natural colour in the international market. We feel that the encouragement of its cultivation will definitely promote diversification of livelihood to uplift economic status of the tribal community," said Dipak Kar, Vice-Chancellor of SKBU.

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