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Turkish town gets ready to smell the roses

The Turkish town of Isparta is in the midst of this year's rose harvest, a flower the Ottomans revered for its fragrance, taste and medicinal qualities.
Roses and rose leaves are pictured at a rose-oil plant in Isparta, Turkey, May 31, 2015. Turkey's harvest of its prized Damascus rose, set to end this weekend, transforms 16 million square m (4,000 acres) of land into beds of pink and perfumes the air around the town of Isparta, the world's biggest producer of Damascus roses and their costly oil, each June. Picture taken May 31, 2015. To match TURKEY-ROSES/ REUTERS/Ayla Jean Yackley - RTX1IW1U

Extracting the essence of rose is a labor-intensive project. Roughly 2 million roses must be picked to produce 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of the oil. With spring arriving late in Turkey and the Balkans this year, the perfume industry worldwide is paying close attention to the rose fields in Isparta province, in southwest Turkey, where the rose harvest, typically from mid-May to mid-June, has been interrupted by heavy rains. Isparta is the world’s leading rose-growing region, producing roughly more than half the world’s rose oil, followed closely by the town of Kazanlak, in Bulgaria.

The perfume industry’s most widely used Turkish rose is Rosa damascena, its name derived from the once-Ottoman-held city of Damascus. Following the recent immigration of 3 million Syrian refugees to Turkey, the fragrant Damascus roses have for the last three years been picked primarily by Syrian laborers.

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