Jasmine Production Is Not All That Fragrant For Egyptian Farmers
Egypt–All the jasmines are not that fragrant for the Egyptian farmers as economic headwinds make it difficult for them to make ends meet. For Shubra Beloula, jasmine flowers are the main economic activity and source of income, employing most of the population of about 15,000 during the harvesting season. Jasmine trade is estimated to pull in some $6.5 million annually for Egypt, providing income to around 50,000 people.
Situated at the heart of the Nile River, this is mainstay for Egyptian Jasmine producers. Getting the flowers from outside the village is a cumbersome task. But as the farmers see this as their staple means to a livelihood, they travel in the dark of the night, invariably on foot, chasing the fragrance and then picking the flowers under torch lights.
In 2020, Egypt started to sell aromatic oil as well. But its constant struggle has been to match its biggest export rival, India’s selling strategy of a low export price, driving their cost to sell, down. Further, the trade has been hit by disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, dampening demand and straining supply chains.
High temperatures this summer have also highlighted a potential risk from climate change on the fragile jasmine flower, said Abdo Badr, a middleman between farmers and factories. The flowers need to be harvested before the sun comes up and the jasmine dries out in the heat.
A flower that was introduced to Egypt by the Romans, as import from the eastern provinces (El-Shimy 2003) has remained with them since then. Its use seemed to be copied from the Persians.
A painstaking task, the economic hardships have hit the pockets of these farmers badly. The flowers are processed nearby to extract a concentrate known as absolute, which is exported to Europe and elsewhere for use in perfumes.