A project started in 2004 with Bulgarian help to replace opium plantations in Afghanistan with Bulgarian Roses appears to be bearing fruit.
The war-torn Central Asian country is taking part in the Green Week in Germany's capital in Berlin, the world's largest trade fair for agricultural products and food, presenting own production of Bulgarian Rose oil.
Back in 2004, a project supported by the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry and then Foreign Minister Solomon Passy and German NGO Welthungerhilfe initiated the cultivation of Bulgarian Rose, a unique sort of roses grown for oil for the perfume industry, in Afghanistan as a way of providing an alternative to the growing ofopium.
As the NATO/ISAF forces continue to be fighting the Taliban insurgents, a war going on since 2001, Afghanistan remains the world's largest producer of opium and exporter of heroin.
The seedlings donated by Bulgaria in 2004 have caught ground in Afghanistan's Eastern province of Nangarhar.
In 2010, the total amount of rose oil distilled in Afghanistan was 30 kg, with German company WALA being a major customer. The total amount of rose oilproduced in 2010 was about 4 000 kg, and most of that came from Bulgaria, produced in the tiny Rose Valley in the central parts of the country. Rose oil costs about EUR 4 000-5 000 per kilogram.
The Bulgarian Rose oil is used in the making of the world's most expensive perfumes.
The Afghanistan project for growing Bulgarian roses is said to be still small-scale, and to be providing a living for about 5 000 Afghans, or 720 families.
"This is good for our farmers, they are earning quite nicely," said in Berlin Mohamed Akbar Mohmand, manager of the Bulgarian Rose oil production manager inAfghanistan, as cited by DPA.
It is still unclear how the production of Bulgarian Rose oil in Afghanistan will affect the Bulgarian producers, who have been complaining of inadequate state subsidies leading to dwindling production.
The Bulgarian Rose oil has been the symbol and emblem of Bulgaria when it comes to international tourism advertising.
Each year in June the Bulgarian town of Kazanlak located in the Rose Valley holds its annual Rose Festival, which attracts thousands of tourists from abroad flocking to see the Bulgarian folklore traditions based on rose harvesting rituals.