| || On the Vaucluse plateau, a limestone upland in the east of the departement of Vaucluse, lavender fields blossom under the hot and dry Mediterranean summer weather. Cultivation of fine lavender began in the 1920’s ; the crop was distilled to produce an essential oil for perfume and aromatherapy. Now, however, it faces competition from lavandin (an hybrid of lavender) and synthetic products. By 1992, annual production had dropped to 25 metric tons (one-sixth of the production in 1960). This decline was all the more worrying because lavender cultivation, which makes use of dry lands, supports rural communities in mountainous areas where agriculture is in decline. A program to relaunch and modernize this industry started in 1994. Since, the annual production of lavender essential oil reaches 50 to 70 metric tons and the production of lavandin oil 1,000 to 1,200 tons from an area of 20,000 hectares. France is the top producer, supplying 50 percent of the world’s lavender and 90 percent of the world’s lavandin, which is exported through out the world. The fragant purple patches that are strewn over the landscape of Haute Provence, thought quite recent in the long history of Provence, are now a considerable asset for tourism.
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