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Egypt's jasmine farmers struggle through economic headwinds

August 30, 2022 at 2:19 pm

A worker, mask-clad due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, presents a handful of harvested jasmine flowers while standing in a field at the village of Shubra Beloula in Egypt’s northern Nile delta province of Gharbiya on July 23, 2020. [MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP via Getty Images]

The village of Shubra Beloula on the Nile Delta is at the heart of the jasmine industry in Egypt which, along with India, is one of the world’s top two producers, Reuters reports.

The fragrant flower is the village’s main economic activity and source of income, employing most of the population of about 15,000 during the harvesting season between June and September.

In fields outside the village, workers walk along rows of bushes in the relative cool of the night and early morning, using head torches to pick flowers by hand and put them into baskets.

The flowers are processed nearby to extract a concentrate known as absolute, which is exported to Europe and elsewhere for use in perfumes.

But the trade has been hit by disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, dampening demand and straining supply chains.

High temperatures this summer have also highlighted a potential risk from climate change on the fragile jasmine flower, said Abdo Badr, a middleman between farmers and factories. The flowers need to be harvested before the sun comes up as the jasmine dries out in the heat.

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