The smell of essential oil is sweet to investors and industries.
Essential oil, also called essence, is a complex mixture of volatile parts, obtained mainly from plant-based raw materials.
Volatile compounds may be comprised of terpenoids such as menthol or camphor. Some may contain alcohols, acids, aldehydes, ketones, phenols, esters, ethers, epoxides, amines, sulfides and terpenes in varying proportions.
The function of essential oils in plants is not well understood. What’s well known, however, is its wide range of applications in food and beverage, fragrances, cosmetics and aromatherapy, household and pharmaceutical products.
Essential oil is produced in small farms or collected from forests. It is extracted through distillation, by steam, water, through dry or mechanical distillation processes.
Essential oil production is an important contribution to the local incomes of relatively poor farmers, an important part of the rural economy, according to Forester Florena Samiano of the Forest Products Research and Development Institute (FPRDI).
About 3,000 essential oils are known worldwide, of which approximately 150 are of commercial importance and traded in the global market, according to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization.
The major producers are China and India, followed by Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam. In Africa, the major essential oil producing countries are Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria; the minor players are the Ivory Coast, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia.
In the Philippines, essential oil is very much in demand, Samiano said. A number of companies, localand international, have started investing on this industry, she said.
In 2020, the Philippines exported essential oils worth US$819,000, making the country the 94th largest exporter of essential oils in the world, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, the online trade data resource.
In the same year, essential oils were 597th in a list of the country’s leading export products, shipped to the United States, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, India and Qatar.
In 2020, the Philippines imported $22.6 million worth of essential oils, the world’s 34th largest importer of essential oils (out of 212 countries).
Essential oils were the 457th (out of 1,200 products) most imported commodities in the Philippines, primarily from United States, India, China, United Kingdom and Singapore.
The country lags behind neighboring Asian countries such as Indonesia, Viet Nam, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India, according to the FPRDI, an agency of the Department of Science and Technology.
This is unfortunate since the Philippines, like its Asian neighbors, is similarly endowed with vast resources of aromatic plants, saidSamiano.
It must realize the significance of this industry and invest on it, she added. “A good start is to convene the different key players of the industry and strategize on the advancement of the Filipino essential oil products.”
The FPRDI is hosting today, September 21, a consultative dialogue to assess the current status of the essential oil industry from global and local perspectives.
The dialogue is designed to identify industry needs, gaps and opportunities and to facilitate the creation of learning and sharing mechanisms among different stakeholders.
“It will also forge collaboration activities that will advance the competitiveness of the Filipino essential oils industry,” Samianosaid.
Participants are expected to give their outlookon international and local production, processing manufacturing, research and technology innovations, marketing, policies, and institutional support.
All these are important in advancing the local essential oil industry, Samianoexplained.