SEATTLE — Demand for lavender herb is increasing each year in Europe, North America, Japan and China as the popularity of natural products and healthcare grows, and Bulgaria is one of the world’s top producers and exporters. This growing industry is fighting poverty in Bulgaria through earned income and creating jobs, not only in farming and production, but also in tourism.
With purchasing power 53 percent below the European average, Bulgaria is one of the poorest countries in the European Union. The transition from communist control has not been easy for Bulgarians, yet positive progress is happening thanks to nature, help from the EU, global trade and local determination to succeed.
Lavender Industry Alleviating Poverty in Bulgaria by Providing Jobs
Increasing production of lavender herb is one of the major ways Bulgarians are building strength and stability while reducing poverty. Bulgarians farm and process lavender herb into products for trade, such as essential oils. Since 2011, production of lavender oil in Bulgaria has at least doubled. For several years, Bulgaria has been at or near the top of the list of the countries producing the most lavender oil in the world, including leading in both production and export of lavender oil in 2017.
Unemployment is one of the main causes of poverty in Bulgaria. Bulgarians are gradually lifting themselves out of poverty with the continual growth of the lavender industry through increasing global usage and trade of lavender products.
Bulgarian Lavender Sees Global Demand
Lavender herb has several uses as a gentle yet strongly effective plant, which is part of why worldwide demand is continually increasing. The blossoms can be processed into antiseptic, antibacterial and relaxing essential oils for personal or spa use, natural healthcare products and aromatic additions to household cleaning agents such as laundry detergents. Dried lavender blossoms are also beneficial and traded globally.
Several companies in the United States source Bulgarian lavender products, such as Mountain Rose Herbs based in Eugene, Oregon. While U.S. companies do import Bulgarian lavender products as interest in aromatherapy and natural products grows, Bulgaria exports more lavender to Europe than to the U.S., particularly to the U.K., Germany and France. The amount of Bulgaria’s lavender exports, especially lavender essential oil, is also increasing each year to Japan and China.
Coinciding with growing consumer demand for lavender herb and products, Bulgarians are continually increasing the size of their lavender fields and the number of essential oil distilleries, which equals more jobs and reduction of poverty in Bulgaria. France is Bulgaria’s main competitor regarding the quality and amount of lavender herb produced and processed into oil products, but Bulgaria is currently in the lead.
Increased Tourism Another Benefit of Lavender Industry’s Growth
This growing industry is providing income and jobs in Bulgaria, not only in farming and production, but also in tourism. Bulgarians now offer travel packages for visitors interested in lavender production or experiencing lavender fields. For example, Bulgaria Trips and Tours offers visitors week-long packages centered around the locals’ annual Lavender Festival, which include ceremonies, feasting, observing vast lavender fields and production facilities. These tours also include museums and historical sites, such as ancient cathedrals and Roman ruins. Such tourism brings income for many Bulgarians, from those working in the lavender industry to those working in local food businesses, hotels, airports, transportation, museums and as guides.
Hopefully, Bulgaria will continue focusing on quality while maximizing quantity, which is how it overcame France as the world’s lavender leader. This lead position is important because lavender herb can benefit everyone worldwide in many ways, including as a healthy path for fighting poverty.
Nikolay Ninov, an expert at a Bulgarian state-run essential oil laboratory, told Fox News, “Bulgaria, the EU’s poorest country with its high unemployment rate, scores of skilled farmers, a favorable climate and unspoiled fields provides a promising blend for essential oil producers.”
Overall, on top of the health benefits of lavender herb that many people worldwide are increasingly recognizing and seeking, lavender is becoming a majorly beneficial plant economically as a healthy way to fight poverty in Bulgaria. Farming, harvesting and processing lavender herb provide jobs with potential for benefitting the health of the employees the same as lavender benefits customers who seek the herb.
Perhaps in the years to come, lavender will prove to be an essential key for healthfully lifting Bulgaria out of the bottom of the list of the European Union’s poorest countries.
By Emme Guilbault for Borgen Magazine