Rose Oil industry Period 3

This period lasted from 1919 until 1945 and was marked by the following events:

  • Rose plantations stabilized by 1940 and then started to shrink rapidly.
  • In 1922 the State intervened to help rose growers in setting up cooperatives.
  • The experimental ground in Kazanlak expanded into an experimental agricultural station in 1943.
  • A number of cooperative distilleries were built.
  • An act regulating the control over the prices of rose flowers was passed in 1932.
  • Lavender stabilized as crops.
  • A rose oil warehouse was opened in Sofia where all manufacturers had to store their produce.
  • Inspection was conducted of every lot of rose oil and rose concrete manufactured over the years.
  • World War I had an adverse effect on the rose planting. During the war, agriculture was devoted exclusively to the cultivation of crops providing food and fodder. Exports decreased.

An Act on promotion of the rose industry was passed in 1922. It aimed at:

  • providing efficient cultivation and expansion of the areas under roses
  • guaranteeing and certifying the purity of the oil
  • organizing rose processing industry on a cooperative basis.

To support the construction of cooperative distilleries, the Bulgarian Agricultural Bank offered loans to cooperatives in the amount of 75% of the cost of the distillery against mortgage. The cooperative distilleries were exempted from taxes and fees for a period of 5 years. Import of distillation equipment was freed from duties and railway taxes until 1930. The entire output of rose oil had to be stored in the depository of the Bulgarian Agricultural Bank. It was to be analyzed in the laboratory of the Agricultural Institute. The experimental field for essential oil cultures, which was created north of Kazanlak by K. Malkov, was left without care after his death in 1908 and soon declined. It was only after World War I that the experimental ground was restored. In 1925 Konstantin Georgiev managed to raise 500,000 Leva for the construction of an administrative building with a laboratory and a block of flats. Ten ha of land lying north of the fruit-tree nursery were allocated for experimental purposes, to be enlarged later by another 12 ha. In 1943 the experimental ground was transformed into an experimental station for essential oil crops.

The Act of 1922 encouraged rose growers to start processing roses. Cooperatives began to be formed with the task to build rose distilleries of their own. To the astonishment of owners of rose processing and trading companies, the number of cooperatives and the rose distilleries they constructed increased quite rapidly.

Rose Industry in the Bulgarian Rose Valley

Seventeen cooperative rose distilleries with 76 stills were built in the region of Karlovo and 3 such distilleries with 18 stills of 39,000 liters total capacity were erected in the Plovdiv region. A total of 40 cooperative rose distilleries with 165 stills of about 330,000 liters capacity were constructed at that time in the Rose Valley. Construction on such a large scale within a period of a dozen years seems almost incredible.

To meet the increased demands for rose concrete of the foreign companies, new installations were constructed, some using equipment imported from France. Their output increased.

During that period the average annual output varied between 1500 and 2000 kg.

Manufactured Rose Oil
Year Kg Year Kg
1919 1128 1933 3486
1920 1200 1934 1737
1921 1500 1935 2739
1922 1681 1936 2228
1923 1412 1937 2775
1924 1865 1938 1712
1925 1521 1939 2778
1926 1954 1940 1690
1927 2650 1941 853
1928 1350 1942 271
1929 1952 1943 1163
1930 2028 1944 773
1931 1774 1945 350
1932 1824

The rose industry, which stabilized in 1930-1931, later on suffered a slump and a dramatic decrease of the demand. The unforeseen reasons lay outside Bulgaria and were mainly connected with the global recession of 1929. Western perfumeries were facing difficulties. Some of them were even forced to temporarily close down. Prices dropped drastically. Many companies in Bulgaria were also in grave difficulties because of unsold quantities of rose oil. The Bulgarian Agricultural Bank then intervened. An Act, establishing control on the prices of roses, was passed on June 3, 1932. In spite of the act regulations, however, recovery of the rose production did not ensue. Less new gardens were planted and no more new rose distilleries were erected. The international rose oil market did not steady until 1934. It was expected that rose oil would accumulate in the bank's depository and this necessitated the enforcement of another act on March 16, 1935. It was the first attempt at imposing a monopoly over the purchase of flower material and its distribution among the owners of distilleries and cooperatives. Export of oil and concrete was allowed, yet only under the strict control of the bank. All owners of rose products were obliged to declare and store their lots in the bank.

In 1937 the demand for rose oil and concrete revived. Foreign companies resumed work. Rose-growers strove to preserve their gardens and uprooting stopped. It was as late as two years after the outbreak of World War II that the areas planted with roses started to shrink again. In 1943 they already accounted for half the 1933 acreage and in 1944 they were further reduced. In order to carry out the measures envisaged in the law, the Bulgarian Agricultural Bank set up a handling room, a depository and a laboratory for rose oil. From the distilleries, the lots of oil were brought to the handling rooms. Samples were taken for analysis. The hamurs (a mixture of attars purchased from various producers, a typified batch) were made and the muskals, were filled and readied for export. All oils, hamurs and batches, ready for export, were analyzed. Quality certificates were issued, and their aroma appreciated the oils also.

This period marks the beginning of lavender oil production, which made possible the distilleries to be used over a longer period - in June and July. The first 150 kg of lavender oil were exported in 1939. Exports increased to 110 kg in 1941, reaching 250 kg in 1942 and 83 kg in 1943.

Cultivation of peppermint began. This plant enjoyed unexpected expansion. Roses were distilled in May and June, lavender - in June-July and peppermint - in August.

Prof. Assen Zlatarov, having analyzed figures systematically collected by Bulgarian scientists, published the following physical and chemical characteristics of the Bulgarian rose oil:

1. Specific gravity at 30/15°C: 0,8206 - 0,8710
2. Freezing point, °C: 11,5-27,20
3. Polarization,°: 1,04-4,90
4. Acid number: 0,7081 - 4,2740
5. Ester number: 7,48-18,30
6. Acetyl number: 198-235
7. Saponification number, %: 8,16 - 21,914
8. Combined alcohols like C10H18O, %: 2,03 - 25,114
9. Free alcohols like  C10H18O, %: 60,89 - 76,11
10. Stearoptene, %: 12,65-21

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Sofia, Bulgaria 1125

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