The National Economic Development and Labour Council Fund for Research into Industrial Development for Growth and Equity study on essential oils identifies South Africa’s top-20 oils for commercialisation, some of which are extracted from indigenous herbs. The oils include rose geranium (http://www.dst.gov.za/media-room/speeches/launch-of-the-essential-oils-cluster-at-onseepkans-in-the-northern-cape/?searchterm=Onseepkans).

Pella and Onseepkans in the Northern Cape represent the start of an essential oils production cluster based on the leaves and new shoots of a cross-bred rose-scented geranium cultivar, Pelargonium cv. Rose. KwaNobuhle near Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape is a southern site for growing the same plant.
The targeted essential oil is for a 1:1 ratio of citronellol and geraniol, which is the so-called ‘Bourbon’ grade that fetches a premium. The January 2010 price for 1 kg of oil produced at Onseepkans and Pella was US$130. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) (www.csir.co.za) regards Egypt, India and China as competitors in this market.

This project will expand the 30 ha cultivation at each Northern site to approximately 50 ha. The land areas leased from the Khai Ma municipality at Pella and Onseepkans extend to 80 ha and 85 ha respectively. The steam distillation facility can process 9.6 tons of plant material in a 12-hour cycle. The CSIR ratio of 32.5 ha:100 kg of oil a month translates into 1 200 kg of oil a year.

The KwaNobuhle site is being expanded from 12 to 30 ha so that it can produce 900 kg of oil a year at a ratio of 20 ha:50 kg of oil. Chemical analysis of the oil produced at KwaNobuhle shows that it is almost of Bourboun grade.

These projects will employ 240 workers and three site supervisors and develop human capital in various ways. For example, the site supervisor and distillation facility operators will gain valuable managerial, administration, horticultural and processing experience in carrying out the project.

The installation of weather stations at the sites will also result in the transfer of skills: on-site leaders have to be taught how to apply information accumulated by their weather stations when they make day-to-day decisions about such things as optimum planting time and irrigation protocols. R8.3 million has been allocated for the first year of this project.