Unlike the mass-produced fragrance industry, the high-end perfume industry bears the brunt of the epidemic. The systems for sourcing plant spices in these two sectors are also very different. The mass-produced fragrance industry prefers a large number of low-cost natural extracts, such as lemongrass or eucalyptus, while the high-end perfume industry uses higher-quality raw materials and often produces very little. Rémi Pulvérail, founder of French internationally influential perfume company L'Atelier Français des Matières and former Givaudan perfume director, said in an interview that this situation is particularly dangerous for small natural perfume producers. Exacerbated the fragility of many supply chains.
What is the status of the high-quality perfume industry in the perfume industry?
Rémi Pulvérail: Agricultural activities are still going on in most countries, but natural extract orders for the high-end perfume industry have plummeted, which makes many producers more vulnerable. From a structural point of view, in struggling countries...their harvest will eventually rot in their own hands.
Manufacturers have launched an event to seek help from past customers and perfume companies, which is the case in Africa.
Will this put the related systems in danger?
Rémi Pulvérail: Of course, there is now a new tension, but because of the abnormal climate and other issues, it actually existed before the epidemic. At that time, natural fragrance manufacturers predicted that at least to a certain extent in the future, they would be able to obtain contract orders from buyers, but unfortunately, this is not the case. Buyers have two goals: reduce inventory and place orders only when raw materials are needed; purchase at the lowest possible price.
In fact, the cycle of agriculture is long and fixed, and the harvest period is the same fixed period every year. Producers have to invest money for planting, and after a few years they can get the first harvest, then convert the plants into extracts, and finally export the spices. Payments will not arrive until after this. In this period of time, the imbalance is even greater. The unprecedented duration of the Madagascar vanilla crisis just shows that despite the launch of several “ethical procurement” (business commitments to ensure the proper purchase of goods and raw materials) projects, fragrance and perfume companies cannot restore this balance.
What do you suggest?
Rémi Pulvérail: For these producers, they still represent the tiny plates in the global agricultural landscape. The only solution is to implement a truly responsible procurement policy, including signing multi-year order contracts and implementing a systematic pre-financing policy. Of course, there is a cost to doing this, but the cost from the large crisis is still negligible. In addition, in my opinion, spice-producing countries should strengthen their control of local supply networks and introduce more interventions on output and prices. At the moment, the market itself can no longer regulate and guarantee the sustainability of all industries.
In order to ensure procurement, should (production) activities be transferred elsewhere?
Rémi Pulvérail: Absolutely not. In many countries, the loss of this plant spice production is equivalent to a catastrophe. For example, Haiti has become the world’s largest vetiver producer, which is the country’s second largest export resource and a high value-added product. The vetiver industry has brought a decent life to tens of thousands of families. The same applies to the cultivation of ylang-ylang in the Comoros Islands.
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