Damask Oil, an essential oil extracted from Rosa Damascena, a variety of rose, which can fetch 7,500 dollars a litre, is to begin export from Ethiopia in August 2012.
The oil, known for its medicinal and cosmetic benefits, is to be exported by Terra Plc to Germany, where a company named Walla Gmbh will buy the product. Terra is owned and managed by Awad Ghanem (PhD), an investor from Germany.
Terra was established in Ethiopia in 2000. It leased 12.9ht of land in Debre Brehan three years ago at 50 cents a year for a square metre to start trial production of the flower with 532 seedlings provided to them by GTZ. Now, they have 35,000 seedlings, according to Wogderes Negash, manager of the farm.
A distilling machine, manufactured by Selam Ethiopia, was installed in April 2012 at the farm site. Since then, three litres of oil have been extracted, said Wogderes.
The company harvested about 1,800kg of flowers before the distilling machine was installed. The company dried 30kg for export as home scent, although exporting dried petals is not part of its plan. The dried flowers are sold for 400 Br a kilogramme. From the remainder, it extracted 1.5lt of oil, according to Wogderes.
"It takes 4,000kg of flowers to produce a litre of Damask oil," Wogderes said.
This amount of flower is collected from a hectare of land. The best oil is obtained when the rose plant attains an age of six years.
The company has covered eight hectares of land with the flower.
Rosa Damascena, which got its name from Damascus, was originally found in the Middle East, whence it spread to western Europe. Damask rose oil has a deep, rosy, fresh aroma, and the colour ranges from clear to a pale yellow or greenish tint. It grows to 2.2m tall, the stems densely armed with stout, curved prickles and stiff bristles with leaves that are pinnate with five leaflets. The flowers range in colour from light pink to light red.
The oil is believed to fight depression, grief, anger, and fear.
The crop is used to produce rose oil and rosewater.
The flower is known as a natural drug producing bacteriostatic agent. It is also used in aromatherapy for the treatment of cardiac diseases, in addition to its use as a perfume, an expert at the Engineering Capacity Building Programme (ECBP) said.
The programme has supported Terra by providing training on farming and processing the flower by bringing in experts from abroad. It also created the contact between Terra and Walla, the German buyer.
Although this essential oil may not sell as well as lavender oil, partly due to its cost, it is one of the best all-purpose oils.
The company will start export with the three litres it has in stock now, but Wogderes says that they will be extracting six to seven litres from each harvest starting next fiscal year.
The company also grows chamomile and keeps cattle, which are fed the leftovers from the extraction process.