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Gathering in Tropical Forests
Gathering of various substances from the tropical forests on a commercial scale and preparation of extracts are important industries in the tropical forests. There are numerous gathering and extraction industries-few of them are of great importance.
Spices: Spices have been known and used in the tropical region for a very long time. The important spices are pepper, cloves, cinnamon and vanilla.
The pepper plant grows where temperature and humidity are high. Indonesia, India, Malaya and Sarawak produce pepper. Indonesia used to supply about 70 per cent of pepper before World War II. Now Malabar Coast of India is the major exporter of black pepper.
Cloves, the dried flower buds of a tropical tree were found in Molucca or Spice Island. Now Zanzibar and Pemba on the east coast of Africa are the main suppliers.
Cinnamon, the inner bark of a small tree is obtained in Sri Lanka, Java, Indochina and southern China.
The principal producers of Vanilla are Mexico and the east coast of Madagascar.
Chicle: It is made from the milky juice gathered from Zapote trees during the rainy season of May to October. Such sap-yielding trees are found in the tropical rain forests in the southern Mexico, Honduras and Brazil. This is time-consuming as well as laborious; as a full-grown tree yields only about 30 lbs. of chicle per year. The juice after collection is brought to huts where it is turned into thick paste with the help of slow heat and then molded into blocks and becomes ready for dispatch. Most of it is shipped to the U.S.A for the manufacture of chewing gum.
Nuts: Gathering of Brazil nuts is very important in the Amazon basin and in the nearby lowlands of the tropical forests. The trees from which nuts are collected grow over wide areas. The ivory nuts are used in the manufacture of buttons in North America and Europe. In India betel nuts and coconuts are largely collected and they constitute important local industries.
Palm Products: Congo, Nigeria, French West Africa, and Sierra Leone are noted for the export of palm-oil kernels. In the manufacturing centres of Northern Hemisphere there is a great demand for palm products, which are used in the manufacture of soap, glycerine, margarine, etc. Indonesia, especially Sumatra and Malaysia have increased their exports of palm products.
Fibres. Important fibre is obtained from the leaves of a plant called Toquilla palm, usually 2.4 to 3 meters high. From such fibre the world famous Panama hats are prepared in Equador, Columbia, and Panama-where large number of Toquilla trees are found in the rain forest areas.
Thugs Various medicinal substances are gathered from the tropical forests. Of these quinine and camphor are exported in large quantities. Camphor trees grow well on the mountain slopes of Japan and Formosa. Camphor is obtained by distillation from the wood over boiling water.
Quinine is obtained from the barks of cinchona trees, which grow well on slopes having altitude of 1220-1830 meters and about 254 cm annual rainfall and high temperature. Java, India, Sri Lanka and Madagascar are important producers and exporters.
Tanning materials Tannin is obtained from the leaves and bark of mangrove trees in the tropical rain forest areas. In India tannin is extracted from the dried fruits of myrobalan trees. The most important source of tanning material is quebracho tree, which grows in Parana-Paraguay basin.
Wild Rubber and Balata. Before the growth of rubber plantations in Indonesia, Malaya, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India, about 99 per cent of the world's total production of rubber came from the Amazon basin of South America and Congo basin of Africa. Most of the production of wild rubber was made by extraction from the trees, Hevea Brasiliensis which are widely scattered throughout those basins. Balata is gathered from the forests of Venezuela and Brazil. It is used in making sea cables and belting.