Sunday, 20 August 2017

Take a Walk on the Lavender Side

Text by Gegori Vasilev   
Dimitrina Yonkova is a graduated theatrical director. Also a physician. For an owner of two dream diplomas, she has made a surprising life choice. Today, at the age of 52, she is a successful producer of lavender and other essential oil. “Bulgaria has really great potential for producing medicinal plants”, she says. One could trust her on this – she was born in Kazanluk, where the best essential roses of Bulgaria, perhaps even in the world, are grown. But while the country’s fame as rose oil producer is international, its leadership in lavender oil is news.

According to historians, lavender was unknown to Bulgaria prior to 1907, when it was imported from the neighboring Mediterranean. But the climate quickly proved suitable and the country promptly gained important position amongst lavender producers. For many years it was second only to France. The situation changed a few years ago, when a plant disease started seriously reducing France’s production, leaving Bulgaria “the new lord of lavender”, as some international media put it.

The Bulgarian producers took advantage of the situation and doubled the crops. Statistics of the national Institute for Roses, Essential and Medical Cultures show increase of nearly four times just in two years – from 25 tons in 2010 to 90 tons in 2012. France became the main client of Bulgarian lavender oil. “The domestic consumption of essential cultures in Bulgaria is very low and most of the producers aim at exporting their production”, says Dimitrina Yonkova. “The French, Alpine lavender has the best qualities. But the Bulgarian, Balkan lavender is just as good. That is why the French are buying our entire production – they receive 100% the best lavender oil in the world.”

People like Dimitrina Yonkova, who take pride in the quality of Bulgarian lavender oil, say the newly acquired leadership has also negative consequences. They are critical of the numerous profiteers, who according to them planted lavender on places with inappropriate climate and weather conditions, choosing for varieties with more abundant, but of lesser quality crop. In result the market has been saturated with low quality production.

„Although Bulgaria’s lavender leadership seems stable, the new lavender boom created problems we need to solve”, says Dimitrina Yonkova. The inferior nature of the planted lavender varieties seems to be the most controversial issue, experts say. They appeal for stricter control, which would guaranty the top quality of the national production. “The Institute for Roses has selected several varieties, which give only top quality oil. But people broadly keep using seedlings from unlicensed dealers,” Yonkova argues.

This month some of lavender producers’ issues may find resolution – when they gather for a conference, where they hope to set up stricter rules and agree on transforming the Institute for Roses into regulatory authority.

It remains to be seen if Bulgaria will preserve its leadership in quality and quantity. But in the meantime one thing is certain – the lavender boom has given travellers new scenic and scented, even therapeutic walking paths.




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