Stara Zagora is one of the oldest continuously populated places in Europe – it was inhabited since the Neolithic era (6th millennium BC).
The region is situated in the central southern part of Bulgaria and it is a crossroad for a number of international routes. It consists of 11 municipalities with 206 settlements (10 towns and 196 villages) with a total area of 5,151 km2 (4.6% of the country’s territory) and it is inhabited by 316,356 people. The soils in the area for the most part are flat and fertile.
The cultivated area occupies more than 56% of the farmland. Nowadays the region has a diverse economy and lots of unexplored business potential – especially with regard to the circular economy. The region offers favourable conditions for growing oil-giving plants and producing ethereal oils. Not only roses, but also lavender, mint and valerian are produced in the valley. The mild climate and rich soil are favorable for producing varied strains of agriculture. Cereals, sunflowers, cotton, and vegetables, as well as fruit orchards and grapevines are grown mainly in the southern plains.
The region is abundant of various herbs that are used to some extent in further processes, such as for the cosmetic, pharmaceutical, food processing industry. The potential lies in the better use of the available resources as well as developing or applying new technologies. Currently, most of the residues are used for compost although they are rich in various elements and could be further processed. Substantial potential lies in the application of essential oils and herbal plants in the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industry. The sector could well become one of the leading growth engines in the country in the future.
National and regional bioeconomy strategies
The Republic of Bulgaria does not have a bioeconomy strategy for the time being. A strategy for Stara Zagora region is currently being drafted, but needs further impetus and political support to be finalized.