Neighboring Manolo Fortich town is slowly enhancing the production of essential oils from eucalyptus trees. Dr. Hector San Juan started in 2005 an experimental government farm for eucalyptus trees to provide the main ingredient for essential oils.
San Juan’s property was tapped as the demonstration farm for commercial plantation of eucalyptus trees. Small farmers in nearby towns were provided seeds for research on backyard production.
San Juan, a practicing agriculturist and veterinary doctor, was provided nine different genes of eucalyptus planting materials which came from Australia through AusAID for mass propagation in his 20-hectare farm near the foot of Mt. Kitanlad.
As the trees grew taller, San Juan noticed that they were releasing a different fragrance, which was different from the local eucalyptus variety popularly known to the Mindanaoans as bagras.
Three years after he planted the seedlings, San Juan was surprised to learn that the eucalyptus trees have finally adapted to Philippine soil. Once government scientists complete their study, the different genes will be the source of a DENR community-based forestry essential-oil production program.
The government intends to use eucalyptus trees for the reforestation of about 10,000 hectares in Mt. Kitanlad while setting up an essential-oil industry in the Philippines.
Dr. Ben Albarece, the former mayor of this town, who chairs the Eucalyptus Leaf-Oil Project of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) for the Protected Areas Management Board of Mt. Kitanlad Range Nature Park, said that as an integral part of the sloping agricultural land technology, they hope that slash-and-burn farming may be drastically reduced.
He said that after Bukidnon, they expect to replicate the essential-oil production in other provinces until the country can start competing with Australia and other countries which have become major producers of essential oil.
Albarece said that nine varieties of eucalyptus are already manageable, although in Australia there are nearly 500 varieties which are now being commercially grown.
He said that one tree can easily produce five kilos of essential oil, which is marketable between $10 to $60 per kilo. If one hectare of eucalyptus plantation yields about 3,000 kilos per harvest, then it can provide an income of about $10,000 once the leaves are processed as essential oils.
Initially, the Philippines can tap the big corporations in Sydney and Brisbane involved purely in the production of eucalyptus essential oil.
IN PHOTO — Dr. Hector San Juan (left) and former Manolo Fortich mayor Ben Albarece look at a short variety of a fully grown eucalyptus tree which can provide the initial planting materials for essential oil production.