Planting and Production of Annato Seeds

Annato or achuete is commonly grown in backyard gardens in the country. Seeds are used for dyes and food coloring, especially for butter. It is also used in making polishes for russet leather.

The dye is obtained from the pulp around the seed by soaking them in the water. The pigment that settles to the bottom is dried into cakes, usually 5 to 6 per cent of the weight of the seeds.

Annato is a small bushy tree 2 to 8 m high and 30 cm in diameter with stem color varying from green to red. Young twigs are covered with rust colored scales. Leaves are heart shaped and alternate. Fruits are dark red to green. The seed pods vary in size, maybe round or elongated with pointed ends, dry to brown color.  These burst open to reveal bright orange to yellowish red color. The inside of the pod is divided into valves that contain 10 to 50 seeds.

Annato originated from tropical America. At present, it is abundantly distributed in the tropics and is common throughout the lowlands of the Philippines. In Latin America, the tree is interplanted with pineapple, papaya and cowpeas. It is used as living fence and firewood. Leaves, barks and seeds have medicinal uses. The bark is also a source of fiber.


There are only two distinct varieties of annato growing in the country: the White flower with green fruit pods, and the Pink flower with purple pods. Seeds of both varieties are coated with red powder.

Soil and Climate Requirements

Annato grows best in both humid tropics, but can also thrive well in altitudes of up to 1,250 meters provided there is sufficient irrigation. A rich loan soil with adequate moisture is ideal for growing.

Seedbed Propagation

Annato is first propagated in seedbeds. Seeds should from freshly gathered pods and soaked in water before sowing in seedbeds. They may, however, be sown directly in the fields.

The nursery site should be under light shade. Prepare the beds by digging deeply and the seeds at a depth of 2.5 cm. Keep the distance between seeds at 10 cm. in a row and 25 cm. between rows. When the seedling have emerged, thin them or reduced their number to maintain a distance of 10 cm. within rows. In about four months, they are already for transplanting.

Land Preparation

Clear the land of the vegetation then plow and harrow twice. Prepare holes as early as 1-1/2 months before planting. Place them 5 to 7 meters apart. They should be about 25 cm deep and 30sq cm wide. Fill in a small amount of manure before putting in the seedlings.


It is best to transplant seedlings at the beginning of the wet season. Take care not to damage the roots. Keep them from exposure to the sun.

After planting, water them regularly for the next two weeks. Put temporary shades of banana leaves while plants are still young.


When plants have grown a meter high, prune or cut the tips if they have not grown primary branches. Secondary branches that are improperly spaced and growing downwards should also be pruned. Prune the shoots, twigs and leaves that hinder the plants from receiving fresh air and sunlight. Do this when the plants have reached three or more years.


Cultivate and weed regularly with the great care so as not to damage the roots. Intercrops such as legumes, leafy vegetables and bulb plants will help eliminate weeds.

Fertilizer Application

For climate with only three months of dry period, apply 15 tons of composed or decomposed organic matter per hectare. Mix this with 200 kg of 2-5-5 (N-P-K) fertilizer each year. Subtract or add to this amount depending on the soil fertility.

Pest and Disease Control

Annato is not seriously attacked by any insect pest. Disease, however, may be acquired such as the powdery mildew disease. This will appear as fine powder on leaf surfaces and eventually caused wilting. Control this by spraying Dithane twice at two-week interval at the rate of 3-1/2 pounds (lbs) per gallon of water.

The twig blight disease results from strong winds and typhoon. Protect the plants with windbreaks before this occur.


Full crop of seeds can be harvested after 3 to 4 years after which the plant continually yields more seeds. Gather the fruit capsules or pods when they have become reddish and are about to split open. Cut the bunch with sharp clipper just above the first node below the bunch.

Average yield per tree is 4-1/2 to 5 kg of dried seeds per year. In one hectare, a yield of 350 to 700 kg of seeds per year is possible.

Post Harvest

Spread the pods on a mat or cloth and allow to dry in the sun completely. Turn them over from time to time and protect from rain and night dews. After 10 days when the pods have split open, collect them and place in bags. Afterwards, beat the bag with the stick to release the seeds from the pods. Sift the seeds through a 1/4 size sieve. Remove the fine particles of dirt by “fanning” with hands or sifting further.

Make sure that seeds are bright maroon in color upon picking in the market. Line the packing bags with water proof paper to preserve its freshness.

Estimated Cost of Producing Achuete per Hectare (2010 data)

A. First year


  • 400 seedling
  • 277 banana plants (for temporary shades)
  • 40 seedling for replanting
  • 15 tons of compost (10 trucks)
  • 2 bags of urea
  • 2 bags of complete fertilizer
  • 1 liter of fungicide
  • 1 liter of pesticides
  • Tools and equipment
  • Estimated cost P19,000


  • Advance land preparation (contractual)= P 800.00
  • Temporary shades layout = 350.00
  • (P35.00/day, 10 man-days) Stacking and holing = 350.00
  • Transplanting = 350.00
  • Fertilizer application = 350.00
  • Replanting (6 man-days)= 210.00
  • Cultivation and weeding = 350.00
  • Disease control = 175.00
  • Estimated cost P4,300.00

a3. Contingency 10%

a4. Total P25,597.00

B. Second year


  • 10 seedling
  • 4 bags of urea
  • 3 bags of complete fertilizer
  • 1 liter fungicides & 1 liter pesticide
  • Tools and equipment
  • Estimated cost P5,900


  • Replanting (5man-days)
  • Cultivation & weeding (10 man-days)
  • Pruning
  • Fertilizer application
  • Pest & disease control
  • Estimated cost P 2,900

b3. Contingency (10%)

b4. Total = P9,647.00

C. Third year


  • 2 bags urea
  • 4 bags complete fertilizer
  • 1 liter fungicide
  • Estimated cost P2,840


  • Cultivation and weeding
  • Pruning
  • Fertilizer application
  • Harvest
  • Pest and Disease Control(6 man-days)
  • Estimated cost P3,220

c3. Contingency 10%

c4. Total = P6,666.00

For more information, contact:

Dept. of Science and Technology
Rm. 303 DOST Bldg., DOST Complex,
Gen. Santos Ave., Bicutan, Taguig City 1631
Telephone Nos: (632) 837-20-71 to 82
Fax: (632) 837-8937

Dept.of Agriculture
D.A. Compound, Elliptical Rd.,
Diliman,Quezon City
Tel. Nos. (632) 929-6065 to 67 / 920-3991 / 928-1134



  1. By Jubilum


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