The Carnauba palm tree (Copernicea cerífera) is found only in the northeast of Brazil, mainly in the States of Rio Grande do Norte, Ceará and Piauí. Experiments to adapt it to other regions have been unsuccessful as the plant is productive only in its original habitat. Very important to the region’s economy, the Carnauba has many uses; its trunk makes sturdy beams and its leaves are used to weave hats and bags and to thatch the roofs of humble dwellings. The Carnauba’s most valuable component, however, is the wax obtained from the film powder that coats its leaves, protecting them from severe climatic conditions particular to the semi-arid regions of the northeast of Brazil. The harvest of the wax follows traditional procedures.
When the time is ripe, the palm leaves are cut, packed in fagots and put to dry in the sun. This process doesn’t damage the palm tree that should grow new leaves until the next crop, the leaves cut is considered a pruning of the palm tree. Next, the powder is scraped off the leaves through a mechanical process especially developed for this purpose. Two types of powder are obtained. One, clear and purer, basis of the yellow grade wax, is obtained from the narrow sword-like center of young unopened leaves. It is the best quality of powder, not having been subjected to the plant’s maturing process nor to the effects of photosynthesis. The second is a darker grayish powder removed from the fully developed fan-like leaves, and correspond to 80 percent of the entire production of raw material. Color and quality of the wax are governed by the age of the leaves and the care used in processing the wax. The Carnauba palm trees are not cultivated on a plantation basis, as they take about seven years to reach full productivity.
The Carnauba Wax is extracted from the two existing kinds of Powder by boiling and then filtering it in primitive presses ( Field procedures using water as solvent) or by Solvent extractors. After that, the wax is selected and refined ending the process, the wax is ready to be commercialized.