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Special Report

Lac cultivation and extraction


For cultivating lac, two types of host trees are used, perennial trees and annual bushes. They are infested with lac insects and left undisturbed. Thousands of lac insects colonise branches of the trees and secrete the resinous pigment. After five to six months lac-bearing branches are cut, and broods are tied to new host trees. The harvested trees are left for one to two years so that they grow new branches.

imageIn October, one crop of broods is introduced on larger trees and the lac is harvested in April or May the next year. If the plants are small, they are left to be infested in May and harvested in October. Each lac crop costs the farmers about one week of work. The lac-coated branches are crushed and sieved to remove impurities. The sieved material is washed to remove insect parts and other soluble material. The resulting product is known as seed-lac, which contains three to five per cent impurities. Seed-lac is processed into lac through heat treatment or solvent extraction.


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