“The Moldovan lavender growers would like to compete with Bulgarians,” the Bulgarian publication “Dnevnik” has said, quoting an article of France-Presse Agency (AFP). The Agency refers to Alexei Cazac, who planted his first bushels in 2015 and is among a growing cohort of farmers in Moldova fuelling a resurgence in the aromatic herb, whose cultivation collapsed along with the Soviet Union.
Cazac, who has over 60 acres of lavender, says he charges visitors the equivalent of about $3 to meander through his purple bushels. On the horizon, he sees plenty of room for expansion. He sells his lavender to a French group.
“Moldova is producing much less than it could,” he says. “But first we need to prove we’re producing a quality product at international standards.”
The local variety yields less oil, concedes Nicu Ulinici, who inherited his father’s farm and harvested his first bushels in 2014. “But it’s higher quality,” he says. Its aroma is “more pleasant, softer.”
“After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the industry was forgotten,” says Alexandru Badarau, president of the Lavender Growers Association. “It collapsed precisely because our connection was severed with Moscow, where most of the essential oils produced in Moldova were exported,” he told AFP. “We’re working hard to revive it.”
Badarau’s association says members export 99 percent of their oil to the European Union, specifically Germany, and to two other well-known producers: France and Bulgaria.
Producers in Moldova say Bulgaria, which was also under the Iron Curtain, has benefitted greatly from the European Union after it became a member in 2007. But where Bulgaria excels in quantity, Moldova trumps it in quality, they say.
Badarau says his association has registered the brand Essential Oils of Moldova to promote products abroad, and that it was aiming for certification from an international agricultural quality assurance group. In the meantime, there’s money to be made from visitors drawn to the picturesque fields, said AFP.