A new and important export crop is being developed in Kenya. The crop is tara,?
A new and important export crop is being developed in Kenya. The crop is tara, a powder produced from the dried pod of the caesalpinia spinose tree, and a rich source of two increasingly important chemicals - tannic and gallic acids.
The trees are being grown in Kericho, alongside the tea estates of Brooke Bond Liebig. Until March, when the first consignment of five tons of tara powder was shopped from Mombasa to Scotland, almost the entire world supply came from South America.
An estimated 6,000 tons of tara is consumed throughout the world each year and Kenya hopes to take over close on a third of this market within a decade. At the current price of about GBP 100 a ton, it promisee to become a profitable business.
The tannic acid produced from the tara powder, is used as a tanning agent for leather. It is also being used increasingly as a precipitant for many alkaloids and proteins, as a mordant in dyeing and a constituent in the manufacture of inks. Gallic acid is used in the manufacture of paper, dyes, writing ink and in photography.
SYNOPSIS: The tara tree is not a native of Kenya, but its cultivation in the western area of the country near Kericho promises to provide a new and important export industry. The pods ar a rich source of tannic and gallic acid and when they are powdered they fetch around one hundred pounds a ton.
The tea firm of Brooke Bond Liebig introduced the tara trees to Kericho as a commercial experiment in the late sixties. Little was then known about the cultivation of the trees - only that they preferred an altitude of five to eight thousand feet.
Until Kenya's first export in March, almost all the world supply of tara came from South American where it has been harvested for centuries in a haphazard fashion by peasants.
The pods are not ripe until they turn to a rich red hue. After harvesting they are dried in the sun for few days.
The young plants ar carefully tended. The top shoots are taken off to encourage quick growth. In twelve years, they are expected to reach maturity.
When the trees are fully grown, they should produce two crops annually - about fifty kilos of pods a year. The correct name of the tara trees is caesalpinia spinosa.
Approximately half of the weight of the pod is taken up with the powder which produces the valuable acids. The masks protect the workers from toxic fumes.
The pods are then put into the grinder. The new factory at Ngoina is a converted coffee factory. A standard rice huller is used for the milling.
Six thousand tons of the powder are used annually throughout the world and Kenya hopes to take over sizeable portion of the export market. In ten years, it hopes to be exporting about two and a half thousand tons.
The tannic acid that will be extracted from the powder is still used for tanning fine leathers. But nowadays it has many other uses as well in the production of dyes and inks. Gallic acid is also used in these industries.