The Potential of Aceh's Citronella Grass
Citronella grass (Andropogon nardus L.) is a significant essential oil-producing plant in Indonesia. Its oil is used in perfumes, cosmetics, soaps, pesticides, and medicines. Additionally, citronella oil has a high economic value as an export commodity.
Aceh is a major citronella production center in Indonesia. According to the 2021 Directorate General of Plantations Statistics, citronella cultivation in Aceh spans several districts, covering a total of 3,194 hectares. The largest areas are in South Aceh District (1,476 hectares), Aceh Jaya District (383 hectares), and West Aceh District (306 hectares).
Cultivating citronella is considered easy and cost-effective. Both planting and maintenance costs are affordable. The plant thrives at altitudes of 0-1,500 meters above sea level, with annual rainfall of 1,500-2,500 mm and temperatures of 25-30°C. Citronella can be harvested every 6-8 months, with a 3-4 month interval between harvests.
Post-harvest processing involves distilling fresh or dried leaves to extract essential oil. This can be done traditionally using simple equipment or modernly with advanced technology. The oil quality is influenced by factors such as plant variety, environmental conditions, harvest time, leaf storage methods, distillation methods, and oil storage conditions.
Aceh's downstream citronella industry has significant potential for further development. This is supported by factors such as extensive and widespread cultivation areas, availability of superior local seeds certified by the Ministry of Agriculture, domestic and international market demand for citronella oil, and support from local and central governments in the form of capital assistance, infrastructure, technical guidance, and promotion.
However, challenges exist, including low productivity due to factors like insufficient knowledge of good cultivation practices, pests, diseases, and climate change. Additionally, the quality of citronella essential oil is often compromised by limited knowledge of proper processing, lack of advanced distillation equipment, and unclear quality standards. The added value of citronella oil in Aceh post-harvest remains low, hampered by limited development of derivative products, lack of cooperation among stakeholders, and a shortage of innovation and creativity.
To overcome these challenges, several strategic steps are necessary. These include improving farmers' capacity in cultivation and processing through extension services, training, and technical guidance. There's also a need to enhance the availability and accessibility of modern, efficient distillation equipment through government aid or loans. Improving the quality standards of citronella essential oil through certification, laboratory testing, and quality control is crucial.
Additionally, increasing the added value of citronella essential oil can be achieved through the development of derivative products like perfumes, cosmetics, soaps, pesticides, and medicines, tailored to market needs. Strengthening cooperation among citronella business actors through the formation of farmers' groups, cooperatives, or associations can improve bargaining power, market access, and information sharing.
Innovation and creativity in the downstream citronella industry through research and development, information technology utilization, and incentives can further enhance the sector. With these measures, the downstream citronella industry in Aceh can prosper, benefiting farmers, businesspeople, the government, and the community.