Primavera Life GmbH in Mittelberg-Oy in Allgäu buys essential oil from Bhutan since the 1990s. The business relationship began in 1991, when Kurt L. Nübling and Ute Leube, both owners of Primavera Life GmbH visited Bhutan upon invitation by the Royal Family.
Trade relations started when Tashi Commercials handed over the lemongrass industry to the farmer cooperative. With support from UNDP and the Essential Oil Development Programme (EODP) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, distillers owned their individual distillation unit. Mobil units made of stainless steel were distributed in all Eastern Dzongkhags. In these years, several hundred liters of lemongrass oil were shipped to Allgäu. But problems arose with the quality of the oil. The drums did not meet the quality standards, thus the oil deteriorated during the long shipping to Europe, representative samples could not be send in time due to bureaucratic hindrances. Today, 27 years after the first visit, Primavera regularly purchases high value essential oil in food grade drums from Bio Bhutan enterprise.
Her Excellency The Ambassador Aum Pema Choden, the delegation of the Embassy in Brussels, representatives of the European Parliament and the local government of Allgäu visit Primavera Life GmbH During the first visit of the Embassy at Primavera Life GmbH in Allgäu in April 2018, Irmela Harz explained: „All lemon grass oil send to Primavera is certified organic according to standards laid out for organic wild collection by the European Union“. Every year, inspectors from India come to Bhutan to verify the collection and distillation procedures.
But it’s not only the essential oil that matters. In 2014, Bio Bhutan enterprise started manufacturing soap with the help of the Sustainable Development Secretariat and the South-South Coorperation Benin, Belize and Bhutan. The soap is based on mustard oil (Brassica juncea), probably the most famous winter vegetable of Bhutan and a meadow for bees, ginger from small-scale cultivation in southern Bhutan. The soap even contains bees wax and of course a drip of lemongrass essential oil for the scent.
From all these highly valued ingredients, Bio Bhutan enterprise produces Natural Soap. Each bar is cut by hand, stamped with the enterprise’ logo and packed individually in daphne paper produced by the paper manufacturers of Bhutan. Even the sticker on each bar of soap is printed with Kuensel in Thimphu. That way the value chain remains in the hand of the Bhutanese until the produce is shipped to Primavera Life GmbH in Germany. During the past 6 years, 300000 bars of soap reached stores and shops in Germany. „Share Happiness“ is the slogan of the soap from Bhutan. And at the end of each year of partnership, parts of the profit return to Bhutan through the Youth Development Fund.
Today in 2018, Ugyen (MSc. Ethnobotany and former research assistant of the Institute of Traditional Medicine (ITMS) in Thimphu) is Bio Bhutan’s manager. Each year Ugyen ships at least 100 kg of essential lemongrass oil to Primavera. Of course there is always room for more. Not only could the quantity of lemongrassoil increase from the current 2000 kg but also soap production could expand. Farmers should be encouraged to cultivate more mustard, increase the production of ginger, enhance the bees wax production in order to cater to the growing demand.
That way, it’s a profitable partnership for ALL and an example of how value is added to natural products from Bhutan. Her Excellency Aum Pema Choden stated during her visit at Primavera Life in April 2018: „This is what we want: economicpartnership with European firms at eye level.“