Brazil Nuts

Around 20,000 tons of Brazil nuts are harvested each year, of which Bolivia accounts for about 50%, Brazil 40%, and Peru 10%.

Brazil nuts for international trade can come from wild collection rather than from plantations. This has been advanced as a model for generating income from a tropical forest without destroying it. The nuts are gathered by migrant workers known as castanheiros.

Brazil nut trees produce fruit almost exclusively in pristine forests. The Brazil nut tree's yellow flowers contain very sweet nectar and can only be pollinated by an insect strong enough to lift the coiled hood on the flower and with a tongue long enough to negotiate the complex coiled flower.

The fruit takes 14 months to mature after pollination of the flowers. The fruit itself is a large capsule 10-15 cm in diameter, resembling a coconut endocarp in size and weighing up to 2 kg. It has a hard, woody shell thick, which contains eight to 24 triangular seeds (the "Brazil nuts") packed like the segments of an orange.

Upon harvesting and collecting the ripened cases that fall off the trees harvesters have to be cautious because they are easily heavy enough to kill a person. Fatal accidents are not uncommon among collectors - they stop work at once if the wind suddenly strengthens, because this can cause a bombardment.