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essential oils industry in Turkey


Essential oils
are aromatics or odorous, oily liquids (sometimes semi-liquid or solid)

obtained from parts of plants, such as flowers, buds, seeds, leaves, twigs, bark, herbs,

woods, fruits and roots. Essential oils are mainly used in the food industry as flavouring

agents, in the perfume industry for fragrances and in the pharmaceutical industry for

adding taste or smell or suppressing the less desirable medicine taste.

Owing to Turkey’s suitable climatic and ecological conditions, hundreds of medical and

aromatic plants are cultivated or gathered from the nature. Turkey is one of the countries

best suited for organic cultivation.


In Turkey, there are many plants from which essential oils are produced and rose is the

most popular one.


What is Rose Oil?

Rose oil is steam distilled from the flowers of the Rose damascena. Rose oil, its extracts

and derivates are among the most important ingredients of natural perfume. They have

remarkable diffusive power and are used in many types of perfume bases, particularly

blending well with other florals.


Rose oil is a very expensive essential oil, partly due to the lack of quality natural and

synthetic substitutes. The short flowering time of the Rose damascena is another reason

for its high price.


History of the Turkish Rose damascena

 Rose damascena was brought to Anatolia in 1870 by immigrants from Bulgaria. In 1888

cultivation of the rose began in Isparta and in 1892 the production of rose oil was

accomplished by a person named “Müftüzade İsmail Efendi”. For years, rose oil was

produced in simple and primitive boilers which Muftuzade Ismail Efendi called “Sitil”. This

method of production continued up to 1935 until Atatürk, the founder of Republic of

Turkey, first came to Isparta and instructed the Minister of Economy to build a large

industrial plant. Then the agricultural cooperative, “Gülbirlik-Gül Gülyağı ve Yağlı Tohumlar

Tarım Satış Kooperatifleri Birliği”, established the first rose oil plant in 1958 and other rose

oil complexes in 1967. Today, rose oil production in Turkey is realized mostly in industrial



Production of Rose Oil 

Rose cultivation for mainly rose oil production takes place in Isparta, in the south-west part

of Anatolia in Turkey. The Turkish rose oil sector has significant production and export



Turkey is among the top producers of rose oil in the world. World-famous “Turkish Rose

Oil” is produced in large quantities in Turkey. Rose oil production has been realised for

over 100 years in Isparta. That is why Isparta is called the “Rose District”. Roses are also

cultivated in the Afyon, Burdur and Denizli districts. Approximately 1.5 tons of rose oil and

7 tons of rose concrete are produced in Turkey annually.



Rose Oil Production Areas: Isparta, Afyon, Burdur, Denizli

The areas of rose cultivation expanded and cultivation began

in Afyon and Denizli in 1989 
in addition to Isparta and Burdur.


Rose Oil Production Areas in Turkey (Unit: da)

Gülbirlik - Gül Gülyağı ve Yağlı Tohumlar Tarım Satış Kooperatifleri Birliği” is the main

producer of rose oil. Gülbirlik was established in 1954 as the union of nine founder

cooperatives. At present it consists of 6 cooperatives, 8,000 members, 4 rose oil factories

in 3 separate locations and 2 rose concrete factories. Gülbirlik processes 3 tons of rose

flower daily in its factories according to Turkish and world standards, and it is the largest

manufacturer and exporter in this field both in Turkey and in the world. Gülbirlik recently

started to manufacture various valve added rose oil products such as rose oil based

cosmetics and rose oil flavoured sweet. There is another cooperative in Afyon, namely

“Başmakçı Gül Kooperatifi” which has 3,000 members. The cooperative produces

ecologically certified rose oil. There are also 8 medium and small size private companies

in the sector. Two of them are French originated firms and make production mostly for

their parent companies. Besides, there are various family owned workshop scale places of

production in the villages of Isparta and in the other provinces.


Roses are gathered during the 40-day flowering season which is in May and June. The

humidity and cloudiness during the season have an effect on the yield and quality of rose



There are two methods for Turkish rose oil distillation: the traditional but slowly

disappearing village-type distillation using log-fired crude copper boilers known as

“Imbeks” and the modern factory production method using hydro-steam distillation in

boilers called “Kazans”. Both methods have distinctive characteristics but the quality of

rose oil produced by these two methods is the same.


Physical and chemical characteristics of Turkish rose oil:

Odour Description : Strong and sweet rosaceous character

Appearance : Liquid

Colour : Light Yellow - Green

Specific Gravity : 0.844-0.868 (25 C)

Refractive Index : 1.4520 - 1.4630 (25 C)

Optical Rotation : -3.3to -5.9 (25 C)

Flash Point : Not determined

Solubility : In Alcohol 90 %

Purity : 100 % Natural

Intended Use : Perfumery – Flavour production

Turkish Rose Damascena products can be grouped in four categories:


Rose Oil


Rose oil is produced by steam distillation of Rosa damascena M., the pink, light red rose

and Rosa Alba L., the white rose flowers. 3,000 litre boilers (sitil in Turkish) made of

copper are used for distillation. Rose oil is a blend of decante-direct-oil and water oil which

are obtained in two steps by distillation.


Rose oil is the most important and the most expensive raw material of the perfumery and

cosmetic industries. The best quality rose oil, in accordance with world standards, is

produced from the rose flowers which are grown in Isparta and the surrounding area at a

level of 1,050 m or more above sea level during May and June.



Rose Concrete


Rose concrete is a waxy product produced via extraction from rose flowers with volatile

solvents such as hexane and subsequently by evaporation of the solvent in a vacuum. It is

used to produce rose absolute, which is one of the raw materials used in the perfumery

and cosmetics industries.



Rose Water


Rose water is a by-product obtained during the distillation of rose flowers. It is natural rose

smelling water which is obtained by mixing pure, clean hot water with oil water in the ratio

of one to one during the production of rose oil. Then it is filtered several times and bottled.

It is used as an aroma for some foods and sweets, and also to clean make-up and the

body since it is natural and pure.


Rose Absolute


Rose absolute is obtained via the extraction of rose concrete with alcohol. The alcoholic

solution is distilled under a vacuum to remove the alcohol.

Turkey produces many other essential oils

In addition to rose oil, which is a traditional product, other essential oils are also produced

in large quantities in Turkey. The most popular ones are laurel leaf oil, origanum oil,

lavender oil and mint oil. The other essential oils produced are myrtle oil, fennel oil, anise

oil, cumin seed oil, sage oil, juniper oil, rosemary oil, melissa oil, pennyroyal oil, styrax oil

and vitex oil.


Two species are important commercial sources of styrax. Styrax oil is extracted in Turkey

from Liquiambar orientalis which is a tree of 15-20 meters tall. This species is native to

eastern Mediterranean Europe and the Near East, and is the source of styrax oil known as

Asian styrax. The only country in the world for this type of styrax oil is Turkey. Production

is made in limited amounts by using traditional methods in workshop scale places. The

production takes place particularly in the Mediterranean and the Aegean Regions. The

other species is L. styraciflua, a tree native to the south-eastern United States, Mexico and

Central America. It is the source of essential oil called American styrax.


“Laurel leaf oil”, which is famous worldwide, is produced in large quantities in Mersin,

Antakya and its surrounding regions.


Parallel to the increases in both domestic and world demand, the amount of essential oils

produced is increasing every year.




Turkish essential oil exports are showing an increasing trend depending on world prices

and cultivation. The exports of essential oils, their by-products and resinoids reached US$

22 million in 2011. The major part of Turkish essential oil exports consisted of rose oil.

Rose oil has been a traditional export item, followed by stearopten oil and origanium oil.



Essential oils were mainly exported to the European countries. Major destinations for

essential oils were France, Germany, the UK, the USA and Switzerland. These countries

accounted for 87 % of total Turkish essential oils exports in 2010.


The Turkish rose oil industry is highly competitive worldwide. Foreign trade of Turkish rose

oil has very old and traditional roots. The exports started very long time ago. It is known

that the majority of rose oil exports between 1920 and 1921 were destined for France and

the USA.


The value of rose oil exports reached US$ 9 million in 2010 and US$ 10 million in 2011.

The exports were made to 33 countries. The majority of exports were directed to the

European countries, the USA, India, Switzerland, and Canada, which are all major

processors of essential oils.


Rose Oil Exports of Turkey by Years

(US$ 1,000)

Years Value

2002 8,068

2003 9,784

2004 7,393

2005 7,174

2006 7,594

2007 9,383

2008 11,210

2009 8,492

2010 9,157

2011 10,301

Source: ITC-www.trademap.org

Turkish Essential Oils Exports, (Value: US$ 1,000)


HS No. Products 2008 2009 2010 2011

330112 Orange oil 30 10 34 0

330113 Lemon oil 11 44 98 97

330119 Other citrus fruit oils 30 15 29 167

330124 Mentha piperita oil 1 0 25 0

330129 Other essential oils 23.087 19.908 15.264 19.721

330130 Resinoids 258 1 24 8

330190 Terpenic by products of

essential oils 1.222 1.175 2.016 2.182

Total 24.639 21.153 17.490 22.175

Source: ITC-www.trademap.org




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Istanbul (Turkey)





􀂃 The General Secretariat Of Antalya Exporters Association



Products: Export of fresh fruit and vegetables and products, essential oils, textiles

and textile raw materials, cut flowers, greenery, bulbs etc.


TAGS: essential oils market in Turkey,  Turkey essential oil industry report