Bulgaria's rose surplus crushes petal prices

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Sofia (AFP)

Everything is not coming up roses for Bulgaria's petal traders.

A particularly abundant harvest this year has sent the price of Bulgarian rose petals crashing, leaving producers in the Rose Valley in the Balkans fearing for their livelihoods.

On Saturday, a group of rose growers protested in the town of Kazanlak in the heart of the valley, scattering delicate pink rose petals on the roads in a bid to shed light on their plight.

The lush Bulgarian rose is a gorgeous flower whose essential oil is used to make perfumes, face creams and body lotions all around the world.

Bulgaria, alongside Turkey, Iran and Morocco, is one of the world's largest rose oil producers.

Bulgaria's temperate climate and alluvial soils provide the ideal conditions for growing the best plant, the Damask Rose.

In recent years, a kilo of rose petals was sold at between 4 and 6 leva (2 to 3 euros, $2.4 to $3.5). This year, the price per kilo has plummeted to 1.3 leva, Agriculture Minister Rumen Porozhanov said Monday.

Bulgaria produces some 1,500 kilos of rose oil each year.

That may not seem like much, except that it takes a whopping 3,500 kilos of rose petals in order to produce a single kilo of the prized essential oil.

Each kilo of rose oil sells for around 6,000 euros.

Porozhanov said Bulgaria will harvest 16,000 tonnes of rose petals this season -- 25 percent more than 2017, after an increase in rose farmland and a warm winter.

"This quantity exceeds the capacity of distilleries, some of which have not opened yet after they were saturated with last year's harvests," the minister told Bulgaria's public broadcaster BNT.

He also pledged to introduce subsidies for rose farmers affected by the surplus, as he announced a proposal to draft a law to defend the country's producers.

Some exporters mix Bulgarian essential oil with oils imported from Turkey or Iran, endangering the national trade, the minister said.