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Coming up roses in Pakistan

Rose absolute is a coveted perfume material which is known to help soothe and rejuvenate the skin; just two of the reasons Lush use it in a wide variety of products.

With a partner in Pakistan, and the Turkish rose supplier we have sourced from for years, we established a joint venture to grow rose without the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Agnes Gendry-Hearn, buyer at Lush explains: “The goal is to understand the growing and production of the flowers. It is the next step in our journey of buying."

Better together

The absolute produced from the local rose in Pakistan differs from the rose produced in Turkey, which traditionally has been our main source of rose absolute. It contains very low levels of one of the naturally occurring constituents regulated by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

Farmers in Pakistan have been growing roses using chemical fertilisers and pesticides and this joint venture aims to encourage a return to traditional, organic practices which ultimately benefit the land and the growers. The area surrounding our rose absolute production site is predominantly occupied by fields of potatoes grown in a vast monoculture. Pakistan is overwhelmed with excess tonnes of potatoes which cannot be sold on a saturated market.

Returning to the old ways

As well as encouraging existing rose growers to abandon the use of chemical inputs, our aim was to show the potatoes growers that they can grow other crops, like rose and jasmine, without the need for expensive chemicals and with the guarantee of a better income.  

“We have a two acre piece of land as a demonstration site for the growing of those two crops without any chemical inputs based on permaculture,” explains Agnes. “We are trying to demonstrate mixed cropping and the way it enriches the soil and fixes nitrogen. We have an agroforestry expert who has visited already and we are all working very closely together.

“The preparation for the site started in spring 2019 and planting began a little later on. The farmers spend the day with the person who runs the site and are shown the techniques that we use. We have ensured there is a continuous program so the farmers can see the improvements made on a regular basis. They know all of these traditional methods; we are just showing them what we are doing and reminding them that expensive chemical inputs are not necessary. The site also aims to demonstrate the intrinsic value of traditional agricultural methods.”

Processing the petals

In 2018, the construction on the factory in Pakistan was complete and it's here the roses are processed into a concrete before they are transported to Turkey to be turned into an absolute. This factory helped to create opportunities for employment for local young people, and provides training in new and exciting extraction processes to create rose absolute. The goal was to set up a sustainable business as we wanted this to be a long-term project.

Agnes says: “The next step was to put the finishing equipment in as the venture continues to grow and evolve. There are a lot of flowers in Pakistan but they are not used for the production of essential oils; they are used for ornamental flowers and traditional flower garlands. At the moment the farmers are selling their flowers by the kilo. As part of that they are expected to thread the flowers into garlands. We are paying more than the price the farmers were paid per kilo and we are not asking for any labour to be put into the production of garlands. This is positive for the level of income that they can make.”

The rose absolute from Pakistan can be found in some of our most beloved products including soft and soothing Ro's Argan soap and mixed with notes of lemon and geranium in Rose Jam solid perfume. 

Words by Michael Allsop

Images embedded within article taken on-site by Agnes Gendry-Hearn.

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