Lavender Market
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Bill Cornelius
Posted on: June 13, 2006

Do you happen to know the approximate yields per acre for lavandin buds? Also the price paid for organic buds especially by purchasers of large quantities. I have 20,000 plus ‘Grosso’, ‘Provence’, ‘Super’ plants and 20,000 true lavender plants -- all organic.

Whidbey Island (Coupeville) takes me back, as I did my high school in Seattle. Where you are currently located would suggest doing a bed-and-breakfast, selling lavender wands to the tourists (as they walk your fields)...

I haven’t written about lavender in more than one year. I have written extensively on it, and will include some of those earlier comments for reference, if you do choose to grow it. A good friend grew 42 acres down on the Klamath River about 15 years ago. He was from Holland, and knew the floral trade.

With what I know now, I wouldn’t recommend it as a cash crop. It is fun to grow, and makes wonderful topiaries. Lavender is a hard one to complete as a cash crop. The French have really got their systems down. We simply could not make the costs competitive in the oil business (extraction). We ended up selling it for dried flower stems.

The only seven lavender farms currently successful in the US are bed-and-breakfast situations. The lavender is for people to muse, while you sell cottage industries around them. I really like it because you can topiary it (somewhat) like rosemary.

There are a number of lavenders, including special cultivars and hybrids. Selecting the right one often can niche you into a market, where it is grown for specific end uses. The following is several paragraphs from my book (unpublished) on lavender (Small Farm Series). For other books, see www.herbfarminfo.com. My website is www.nwbotanicals.org, and has a number of useful articles on resources and marketing (www.nwbotanicals.org/oak/altagri/a_a_index.html).

Lavender is fun to grow, but has serious harvesting considerations. It likes to grow on hostile soils with good slant/drainage (14%) -- perfect for that back 14 acres now useless for even cattle. However, what do you plan to market? The flower petal is the largest market, now supplied by France (for the last 200 years). Their price landed? $4.00/lb. These are used in formulas and potpourri mixes.

Stripping the petal off the spike is labor intensive, and usually does not show profits when done by hand. This means you will also need to invent a petal stripper as part of the crop development program. The French do it by drying it on spikes, and then jumping on it (like grapes). This then requires serious sifting and scalping of the stem pieces. Or they make oil for the cosmetic industry (via steam distillation).

Most domestic growers attempt to harvest and then sell dried spikes (with flower petals) to the floral trade (by the "bunch" or "hand"). Now you have a controlled Dutch system, again leaving minimal profit margins. The only way I’ve seen domestic growers make it profitable is by using it in a cottage industry (on site) program, where it is an essential part of the "package."

I would pass on growing lavender for commercial sales. It is very nice to grow in and around other crops. Even using is as a companion plant sill help control specific insects. I could think of a number of crops that would be far more lucrative. Responding to your specific questions, Gunther’s 6-volume set on essential oils will give specific yields per acre, based on land situations:

There are three kinds of lavender grown now for the commercial markets. Your form of lavandin is the least desired and hence produces less income.

Here is my precis on lavender as a commercial crop:

Species: 1) True Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia Mill.); 2) Spike Lavender (Lavandula latifolia Vill.); 3) Lavandin (Lavandula hybrida Reverchon) (e.g. ‘Grosso’ Lavender)

World Market: 22,000 acres, all species (total acreage and farmgate revenues for all plant parts and derivatives)

North American Market: 2,600 acres, all species (total acreage and farmgate revenues for all plant parts and derivatives)

Prices: Flowers: dried: $4.50/lb.; organic: $4.85/lb. Oil: $20.50/lb. (French); $14.50/lb. (Spike); $10.50/lb. (Lavandin).

Future prospects: Prices -- same. Market Size -- same. Reason why -- cheaper sources create surpluses, so market remains fixed.

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