Natural Products in the British Colonial Empire


    THE second report of the Colonial Primary Products Committee*, dated January 1949, consists mainly of a series of commodity studies, to which is appended a note by the Imperial Institute on distillation of essential oils, describing inexpensive plant for this purpose. Recommendations of the Committee in regard to groundnuts are discussed elsewhere (p. 889 of this issue) ; in regard to oil-palm products, the Committee recommends the introduction of a superior grade to encourage the production and sale for export of an oil suitable both for edible and technical purposes. The Committee considers that for coconut products a long-term assurance is of the first importance ; but of other edible oils and oil-seeds yielding edible oils produced in the Colonial Empire, kapok seed, neem oil and dika fat are unlikely to be of use for edible purposes, special encouragement of sesame is not recommended, and of the minor oil-seeds only cottonseed and illipe nuts appear worth encouraging. The best hope of increased production of soya beans in the near future appears to lie in East and Central Africa, and the Committee hopes that the assured market will stimulate increased production there, and that departments of agriculture will pursue their variety trials. It suggests that if the large-scale trials of sunflowers as a rotation crop in Tanganyika prove satisfactory, consideration should be given to growing the crop extensively elsewhere. It also considers that every effort should be made to increase Colonial production of drying oils to reduce the gap between sterling demand and sterling supply, and hopes that the present acreage of linseed in Kenya will be maintained, if not extended. Attention is also directed to the considerable possibilities of the candlenut tree, Aleurites moluccana, as a native-grown permanent tree crop, and to the desirability of establishing trial plantings over a wide range of conditions. It is suggested that the Colonial Products Research Council should undertake decortication trials with samples of nuts with the view of evolving a suitable decorticator for Colonial conditions. Production in the Empire of tung oil is centred in Nyasaland, and if the yield from the Colonial Development Corporation's project in the Vipya Highlands materializes, together with production in the Southern Province in eight or ten years, much of the United Kingdom's demand should be met. Trials with the cultivation of high-yielding strains of castor giving non-scattering seeds are recommended, and also further trials of rubberseed oil and the cultivation of Tetracarpidium Conophorum. Encouragement of the cultivation of perilla, niger seed, chia oil, ongokea or isano oil, poy-ok oil and tee-seed oil is not recommended for reasons given.

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    Natural Products in the British Colonial Empire. Nature 163, 898–899 (1949).

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