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In a dense thicket in the middle of the impoverished Indian Ocean archipelago of the Comoros, Ibrahim Bacar is plucking tiny ylang ylang flowers.The barely visible yellow blossoms with an intoxicating aroma contain the oil that provides the distinctive scent in Chanel No. 5, one of the world's best-selling fragrances.Each year, Comoros produces between 30 and 40 tons of the essential oil mainly on the island of Anjouan, home to 350 distilleries.Ylang ylang originated in the Philippines and means "flower of flowers" in the local Tagalog language.Other fragrances at that time had scents that were mostly dominated by a single flower.As the No. 5 contains a significant amount of the ylang ylang oil, around 10 percent according to Sheldrake, the company became one of the biggest customers for the Comoros' precious produce.In 2013 and 2014, the country exported just 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million) worth of the essential oil a year.
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