The Grass region in the south of France accounts for most of the world’s rose oil production, next to Bulgaria and Turkey. The Grass valley in particular is known for its fertile soil and roses have been grown here since the 17th century. But in recent years, cultivation has been challenged in the wake of climate change.
It rains less often now. Since Christmas, there has only been 15 mm of rain compared to the normal 65 mm, and this stresses the rose, which thinks it must bloom faster to attract pollinators. And last year the harvest was not so good. There are six water reservoirs that we collect water in to manage the water supply for the roses, but they are almost empty.
In the Grasse valley, the rose growers use water from the mountains and never water from the municipality because it contains chlorine which kills the plant in the long run. The cultivation is completely organic, and algae are fertilized during the actual flowering.
Water has to be stored in the mountains but it is not so easy when there is no rain. They are clearly noticing climate change here. The seasons flow together and when it rains, it comes like torrential rains and the ground does not have time to absorb the rain. The crops have to adapt to that, for example, planting a fig grove that will retain the groundwater better.
Over the centuries, the centifolia rose, also known as “May rose” or “Grasse rose”, has proven to deliver the most exclusive rose oil, which mostly ends up in exclusive perfumes and creams.
Demand for rose oil has skyrocketed in recent years and is estimated to have annual sales of 5.8 billion over the next five years, according to Data Bridge Market Research.
One ton of rose petals gives one litre of rose oil, and the equivalent of one kilo requires a price of EUR 8,000.