Sweet lavender turns sour for Bulgarian farmers
Purple pepper fields the landscape of central Bulgaria. With a climate comparable to that of Provence, coupled with cheap labor and an abundance of arable land, Bulgaria’s lavender fields have grown six-fold to some 20,000 hectares since 2010, exceeding the France. While the production of lavender oil increased tenfold to 600 tons. per year in 2020. Filip Lissicharov’s company cultivates 160 hectares of certified organic lavender. “The future of Bulgaria is to produce quality lavender oil, which meets the standards to position itself in the market – this will put us on the same level as France which already had this image.” But the success suddenly did not come without problems. After jumping in 2018 to more than 120 euros per kilogram, the average price of lavender oil has halved to around 60 euros last year, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture. Nikolay Valkanov is director at Inteliagro Consultancy, an organization that supports sustainable and competitive agriculture. Bulgarian production grew so rapidly that it began to exceed demand, which automatically led to lower prices. “Quality was also a challenge. Most of Bulgaria’s new lavender fields were planted in the northeast of the country, where grain farmers switched to lavender in search of better yields. But they were often lacking appropriate skills and have planted uncertified varieties.While the oil produced by traditional producers in central Bulgaria meets the high standards demanded by the cosmetic industry, the quality varies among producers in the northeast. , the country’s farmers are sure to sniff out a business opportunity.