Essential Oil Herbs for Central Africa
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Karine Mbousnoum
Posted on: July 06, 2005

I live in Montreal and I own 20 acres of land in Cameroon, Central Africa. I would like to grow some herbs on that land and extract essential oils to sell in North America. What herbs are best to grow in Cameroon for commercial profit? How much acreage do I need to bring out $200k per year after distilling the herbs? Do you carry the herb that I can plant there and extract essential oil after?

To expect a $10,000 profit per acre ($25,000 per hectare) is pushing the limits of reasonable expectation, especially for a new project involving essential oil distillation. I won’t say that it is impossible, but it is highly unlikely. Essential oil production is a competitive business and takes time to do it well enough to make a decent profit. First you have to grow the herbs efficiently and then you have to acquire and operate the distillation equipment efficiently. And then you have to agressively market your product -- don’t expect buyers to knock down your door. If everything is working just right, you might -- in a good year -- achieve your goal. More realistic is a profit goal of $1,000 to $3,000 a year per acre.

Most of the essential oil producing herbs we carry are natives of the temperate climate zone, and many do not tolerate monsoon rains or high humidity for long. Examples are lavender, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. Basil may do well in Cameroon: some species of basil are native to West Africa and may grow well in Cameroon. There is a long established market for basil oil. Other herbs to consider that may grow in Cameroon are lemongrass, patchouli, palmarosa, citronella, black pepper, rose geranium, roman and german chamomile, tea tree, and vetiver.

Richard Alan Miller our commercial herb production expert has previously written on steam distillation and essential oils; please see: http://www.richters.com/show.cgi?page=./QandA/Commercial/19980828-2.html

We also carry two books on essential oils: "The A-Z of Essential Oils" (http://www.richters.com/Web_store/web_store.cgi?product=XB1035) and "The Complete of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy: (http://www.richters.com/Web_store/web_store.cgi?product=XB1860).

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