Litsea cubeba (also known as May Chang) oil is distilled from the small, pepperlike fruits of the tree of Litsea cubeba.
May Chang (Litsea cubeba) is an evergreen tree or shrub 5–12 metres high from the Lauraceae family. It is native to China and other parts of Southeast Asia. It is called "mountain pepper" (山胡椒) locally in Mandarin.
It competes to a limited extent with lemongrass, another citral-rich oil, for fragrance applications.
Essential oil yields from the fruit are approximately 3-5%. The oil's main component is citral, at around 70-80% of the oil. It is estimated that China produces around 500-600 tonnes of Litsea cubeba per annum.
It is also used as a raw material source for the isolation of citral. Citral is used in its own right for flavour and fragrance applications or converted by the chemical industry to a number of important derivatives such as ionones, which have a violet-like fragrance. It is also heavily used in the vitamin industry.
Prior to the start of the 2017 harvest there were concerns that heavy rains would once again impact the crop. Like last year, when a similar scenario played out, prices increased towards the end of the season (October/November) as it became apparent that supplies wouldn’t meet demand.
Prices hit record highs in October but have since stopped rising. That said, there is a general concern that a lack of carry over will again cause prices to rise in 2018 at least until the next crop nears in July.
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