Squeezed out: Bulgaria lavender oil makers fear EU laws

As a successful harvesting season yielding several hundred tons of lavender oil wraps up in Bulgaria - the world's top producer - the industry's future looks more grey than purple.

With a global production glut already weighing on prices, Bulgarian distillers now fear new EU regulations will further crimp business.

While the European Union has offered to pause the implementation of the bloc's revised regulations restricting harmful chemical substances, the clock is ticking.

Nikolay Nenkov, head of Galen-N distillery --- one of the biggest in Bulgaria - is worried that he will soon have to affix health warning labels featuring off-putting slogans to his vials of lavender oil.

"We fear that such measures will lower consumption, curb production and [thus] the sector might disappear in some regions, which is very bad considering it's a long-standing tradition," he told AFP.

In an industry already reeling from low prices, labor shortages, climate change and pests, the planned revisions would "create further tension," he added.

From the famous lavender fields surrounding Zelenikovo in central Bulgaria to France's Provence, producers and farmers have teamed up to defend their product against what they see as unfair laws from Brussels.

Other major producers include China, Moldova and Greece.

Across the EU, essential oils are regulated by two main chemical laws known as REACH and CLP.

The upcoming revision of both laws seeks to provide consumers and companies with better information about the possible existence of endocrine disruptors and components that cause cancer or allergic reactions in products.

The review of REACH -- which deals with the registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of...

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