The genus Helichrysum consists of an estimated 600 species, in the sunflower family (Asteraceae).
Helichrysum italicum (also known as Helichrysum angustifolium) is steam distilled to produce a yellow-reddish essential oil popular in fragrance for its unique scent, best described as a mixture of caramel and florals notes. Angustifolium means narrow leaved.
Helichrysum angustifolium yields are very small ranging from as little as 0.08 to 0.18%.
Croatian oil is deemed to be the best for its neryl acetate content but it’s becoming a challenge to source.
Collections of immortelle are controlled by local governments in Croatia and sadly the plant has been subject to much illegal harvesting over recent years. So much so that the government is considering greater controls or even banning any harvesting in certain areas. This could have a profound effect on future availability. In 2014 the government already imposed a 45-day ban to try and curb illegal harvesting and in 2015 there will only be a summer harvest (there’s usually a Spring harvest). Officials described the situation as ‘uncontrolled, unprofessional, greedy, without any national strategy, not thinking about what will be in the years to come.’
If there is ever an example of having too much of a good thing, then maybe that’s what we have with the helichrysum market today.
The establishment of a number of new plantation areas across Central and Eastern Europe saw production increase dramatically in 2017. Some will point to this as welcome news as reduced harvesting controls in recent years had caused prices to increase.
Today, we have the opposite, resulting in what some are calling the disconnect between market end users and growers. The increase in price and fall in production during 2015 led many to believe that they should invest in plantations. It seemed this was on the back of some wishful thinking by many who thought that these higher prices could be maintained even when production quadrupled! Obviously that hasn’t been the case with many offers still currently available, which is a little unusual for this time of the year. Prices are expected to soften over the coming months as producers look to offload some remaining stocks ahead of the 2018 campaigns. Let’s hope the market quickly balances so it is fairer on all concerned.
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