Lavender fields across Türkiye draw visitors while lavender oil proves profitable for suppliers of the cosmetics industry in the country…
Fields of lavender have been thriving across Türkiye in recent years thanks to incentives by the government. Supported by a lavender cultivation project launched by the Directorate General of Forestry (OGM), the fields help create alternative tourism routes while their oil contributes to the Turkish economy.
Native to the Old World and found in Cape Verde and the Canary Islands, lavender also grows in Europe, across northern and eastern Africa, the Mediterranean, southwest Asia, China and southeast India. Having spread throughout the world, it is surely one of the most easily found plants and a key ingredient in aromatherapy.
A genus of the mint family of flowers, lavender can reach one meter (3.2 feet) in height and the perennial plant is most common in the Mediterranean region. The plant is mainly grown to make lavender essential oil, one of the most traded oils out of 15 plant oils in the world. Lavender has 48 subspecies, mostly endemic to the Mediterranean, and only three of these have the highest commercial value. Among them are spike lavender and lavandin, which are cultivated in Türkiye’s Isparta, Afyonkarahisar, Denizli, Konya, Kütahya, Muğla, Eskişehir and Antalya.
Although when they blossom can vary depending on the climate and soil conditions, the plant usually blossoms in July and is harvested that month.
Lavender oil is widely used in the cosmetics sector while its fragrance and painkilling, calming and insomnia relieving properties make it an essential material in soap and disinfectants. It also serves as a diuretic and relieves pain from rheumatism. Lavender flowers are also used in tea because of their known sedative effects.
OGM launched the project in 2015 to financially support residents of forest villages and create new livelihoods. It is also applied in steep and barren lands to diversify agriculture while OGM seeks to curb migration from villages to cities with more employment in the lavender growing sector. The directorate provides loans for growers, including an interest-free loan of TL 37,000 of which only 80% must be paid back, with the first payment due three years after the transfer of funds.
The directorate also grows lavender in its own fields and last year alone, it planted more than 5 million lavender saplings.
Up to 30 kilograms of lavender oil can be extracted from one ton of lavender. Overall, sales of lavender products contribute about TL 20 million to the Turkish economy. Figures by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) show total exports of lavender oil reached 9.3 tons and $184,000.
In the meantime, “purple tourism,” as it came to be called, lures more people to lavender fields, from ordinary tourists whose primary destinations are the vacation spots near towns with lavender fields to those specifically visiting fields to take selfies and videos, or simply stopping by to smell the flowers. Located in the Lakes District of the northwestern Mediterranean region, Isparta has become a top destination for lavender cultivation and agricultural tourism activities in recent years. To see the fields, many tourists journey to the villages of Kuşçular, Kuyucak, Ardıçlı and Aydoğmuş from both Türkiye and around the world, with the largest numbers visiting in July. Located in Türkiye’s biggest lavender producing district, Keçiborlu, Lavender Valley boasts large fields that mirror the Provence villages of France. Those who visit the city during the rose harvest can explore the fields and gather beautiful blooms with the locals. They can also visit the factories where the roses are processed.