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Regenerative Grapefruit: All the juicy details

With a mood-boosting effect on the mind and numerous benefits to the hair and skin, grapefruit oil is a popular ingredient worldwide for use in cosmetics and perfumery - and Lush is no exception.

The grapefruit oil that we use currently comes from four different countries: Florida, Mexico, Cuba and Argentina. Belonging to the Rutaceae plant family, the evergreen trees that grow these juicy fruits can grow up to nine metres tall, and produce around 500 fruits a year. The maintenance of the orchards also plays a key role in keeping both the community and natural diversity thriving.

Cyprus, once a key source for our grapefruit oil, has seen the industry for this product decline with the selling of lands used for fruit growing. We are working with the farmers and producers on the ground to renew our grapefruit sourcing here, but also to create a sustainable industry once again. In addition, thanks to the adoption of protective schemes and more regenerative techniques by local farmers, this recent venture also benefits endangered wildlife. Lead Buyer Agnes Gendry-Hearn explains. “Cyprus has a real problem, so we looked at what we could do here to encourage and keep the diversity and the environment. The main thing is making sure those grapefruit orchards stay in place.”

The grapefruit industry provides valuable work and income for local communities in Cyprus, as well as orchards that provide the perfect rest stop for birds along an important migration route. The landscape is rich with ponds and insects for the birds’ nourishment, alongside protection and security provided by the trees.

However, with the market price for this produce constantly fluctuating, managing income from the fruit alone can be fraught and unpredictable for the farmers and producers. This, along with the lure of jobs away from the island, is resulting in land being sold off for new property development. This decline in grapefruit orchards has, in turn, led to a decline in the bird population throughout the country.

“The natural diversity is being ripped away”, states Agnes. “We used to buy almost all our grapefruit essential oil from Cyprus until about five years ago when it started to become less and less available… Cyprus is a small place, and with new developments, there are fewer trees for the birds. These orchards are disappearing fast.”

Constantly challenging themselves to source as responsibly, directly and regeneratively as possible, the buying team have a proactive role in the business - travelling to the source of our ingredients and meeting the farmers and producers themselves. As a result, Lush are exploring new ventures with Cyprian farmers to keep the land flourishing with orchards.

Regenerative grapefruit from Cyprus

Working to cultivate and nourish 250,000 trees spread across Cyprus in a variety of locations creates employment and encourages traditional methods of farming to be maintained and passed down. It is an important source to sustain people’s livelihoods.

The grapefruit from these farms is produced for juicing, and the oil is expressed as a natural byproduct as the whole fruit is pressed. After pressing, the oil is separated from the juice through a centrifusion process, and carefully collected. Finally, the oil is filtered by Lush, and is ready to be added to our beautiful products.

Another important aspect of our venture in Cyprus is that it involves working with BirdLife International: an autonomous global partnership between conservation organisations separate from any government. Working in over 120 countries and territories, they fight to protect wild birds and their habitats through global diversity. To do this, they work with people in their local communities to promote the use of natural sources in a sustainable way.

Working alongside BirdLife Cyprus and the local community to maintain the grapefruit orchards will encourage the growth of the bird populations across the country, in particular, a local species of barn owl which is under serious threat in the region. These owls act as a natural form of rodent control on farms, and reduce the use of rodenticide poisons and toxins affecting the land. By working closely with the farmers to fix bird boxes to the grapefruit trees and monitoring the owl preservation, we can hopefully help an endangered species to flourish once again. After speaking directly with this organisation and the local community, Agnes believes this process will “benefit the grower, benefit the juicer, benefit Birdlife Cyprus and benefit us.”

With one tonne of the fruit producing only around two kilograms of oil, we are still working with the local farmers and producers on new and innovative ways to increase our yield. Lush are keen to continue resourcing our oil here in a sustainable and regenerative way, and Agnes explains: “We use about 11 tonnes of grapefruit oil a year, and would like half of it to come from Cyprus. It is very early days, and time will tell, but we are determined to keep working with growers and processors in Cyprus.”

Words by Lauren Collins

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