Rose oil is regarded as one of the most traditional and premium essential oils in aromatherapy and perfumery today.
The rose blossoms of Rosa damascena begin to bloom in Bulgaria around the third week of May, and will continue for three or four weeks depending upon weather conditions. Yields can be highly volatile depending on the conditions during this short period of time. For example, any extreme heat could result in a yield loss as the oil will evaporate just like other floral oils.
Harvesting begins as the rose flowers begin to open and are still collected by hand, usually early in the morning. Today this time old tradition is one of the most wonderful sights to see in our industry.
Currently, our growing partners offer highly modern distillation facilities where oil recovery is at its optimum but still on average, Rosa damascena will only yield 1 kilo of oil per 3,500 - 4,000 kilos of flowers!!
As a result of favourable climatic conditions and other natural factors, for more than 350 years, Bulgaria has been the land of rose oil production – and today it remains the world’s major rose oil producer. However, nothing is ever straightforward with Bulgarian rose production and each year throws up new challenges. Following the large increase in rose oil production in 2017, this season saw a severely compressed rose harvest period along with lower yields, labour shortages, and some distilleries even turning away already harvested rose flowers. This year’s weather conditions led to rose flowers blossoming rapidly and simultaneously in all the producing regions. This meant that rose flowers had to be processed within a 2-3 week harvesting period in contrast to the normal harvesting period of 4–6 weeks. This created major problems for all the distilleries, most of which had insufficient capacity to process the flowers available, leading some to set daily limits on rose deliveries as well as turn away roses from non- contracted suppliers. Oil yields were reduced from previous years. Fortunately, the area under rose production has been increasing in recent years, growing by an estimated quarter in the past two years. The larger production area helped to compensate for the lower yields.
In addition, labour availability was a greater problem than usual, in part because rose flowers needed to be handpicked during an even shorter harvesting period. Picking requires great dexterity, and patience, and is mainly done by the minority Roma people, particularly women. Labour costs increased in an effort to attract and maintain labour supply, and the situation was not helped by legislative issues relating to labour employment.
While the overall area under rose production has been growing, this is not the case with organic production, which has been decreasing. The area under certified organic roses has fallen by an estimated 15% over the past two years. This is the result of higher organic production costs, lower yields, and the ending of EU subsidies.
The large 2017 harvest put downward pressure on rose oil prices following their 2016 peak. The downward trend has continued in 2018. However, this is not the case with organic rose oil where high production costs have maintained price levels.
Finally, quality issues are still a major concern. Despite the fact that the international fragrance community is now more alert to adulteration issues, there is still a significant production of adulterated “rose oil” in Bulgaria. It is strongly recommended that the standard GC-MC analysis be undertaken on all offers, along with other tests to prove authenticity and origin. Products can be labelled as “Bulgarian rose oil” only if they possess a PGI certificate and mark. A PGI certificate and special mark is symbolic of a guarantee of true authentic quality of 100% pure and natural Bulgarian rose oil.
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