Essential Oil Extractor Saves Forest Trees

This is the Lemon Grass Oil Distiller by Ramon Uy of Bacolod City.

Vice Mayor Jerry Tabujara and Ramon Uy talk shop

An essential oil extractor is helping save the forests in the upland town of Cauayan, Negros Occidental. The machine that distills essential oil from lemon grass in Brgy. Camalaandan has been observed to have stopped people from cutting trees for making charcoal because they have found that it is easier and more profitable to grow lemon grass for essential oil extraction than to make charcoal.
The change came about a few years ago when Ramon Uy who designed the essential oil extractor brought one unit to Brgy Camalandaan and asked the people to grow lemon grass. The project was helped by the provincial government who encouraged the farmers to shift to lemon grass production by providing funds for the planting materials.

The government did not pay for the machine. Ramon Uy just brought the extractor to the place so that the farmers can use it without paying for the extraction service. At the same time, Ramon Uy promised to buy all the oil extracted. The price is P1,500 per liter of oil. A byproduct called hydrosol or the water that was separated from the oil during extraction is also bought at P600 per 20 liters.

According to Arnel Taba, the project development officer from the provincial agriculturist’s office, there are now about 30 farmers who are growing lemon grass for extraction in Ramon Uy’s machine. One farmer who has planted just 2,500 square meters can have an income of P5,000 a month, according to Taba. That’s not bad for a family up in the mountain who also has other crops like corn and vegetables. After all, lemon grass is just intercropped with coconut, corn or simply planted along the dikes of the corn fields.

On a per hectare basis, according to Taba, one can produce ten tons of lemon grass leaves every two months once the plants have become six months old. From each ton, P6,000 worth of essential oil can be extracted.

This is how the scheme works. The farmers cut the lemon grass and bring the same to the distilling machine. One load consists of 250 kilos of leaves. The farmer uses wood for fuel. In three hours, the oil extracted and is bought by Ramon Uy for P1,500 per liter.

The hydrosol produced per batch is about 40 liters which is worth P1,200. This hydrosol is used as a biopesticide to control pests in crops. It is also used for marinating fish or for treating scabies in farm animals.

Lemon grass oil, on the other hand, is used in many wellness and beauty products. It is used in making bath soap, massage oil, shampoo, dengue control products and more.

Ramon Uy revealed that an anti-dengue spray using lemon grass oil as a major component is about to be perfected. The preparation would be safe for spraying in homes, classrooms and other places. It is very safe because it is an organic product. There is no synthetic chemical in it.

Because of the success in Brgy. Camalandaan, the provincial government is buying a new unit for Brgy. Sura in Cauayan. The unit will require a planting of at least 10 hectares so it will provide livelihood opportunities to more families in the upland barangay of Cauayan.

Lemon grass is not expensive to grow. In fact it does not require fertilizers if the soil is relatively fertile. There is no pest that attacks this crop. In fact it is planted among fruit trees to repel the insects.

The planting materials are planted 60 cm x 60 cm so that 27,777 hills can be planted in one hectare. When the plants are full grown, one hill can produce a kilo of leaves. The first harvest is done when the plants are six months mold. Succeeding harvests are every two months. Replanting may be done after two years of harvesting.

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