Ninety-four percent of the world saffron production comes from Iran, according to deputy agriculture minister, Mitra Majdzadeh, as reported by Mehr news agency. She added that more than 280 metric tons of saffron was produced domestically over the past Iranian calendar year (ended March 20).
Despite increase in saffron cultivation last year, production decreased by 10 percent compared to a year before.
About 88,000 hectares was under saffron cultivation over the period, which was 5 percent more compared to the preceding year.
The deputy minister referred to frost damage in two major saffron producing provinces of Khorasan-Razavi and South Khorasan last winter and drought last summer as the reasons behind the decline in production. She anticipated that the area under cultivation will be expanded by 10 percent by the end of the current Iranian year.
Although, saffron is grown in 21 provinces, Khorasan-Razavi and South Khorasan provinces account for 95 percent of the national production. Majdzadeh said the government plans to extend saffron cultivation to other provinces.
About 150 metric tons of saffron, valued at $220-$230 million was exported in the last Iranian year, while exports amounted to 137 tons valued at $200 million a year before.
The major export destinations include the UAE, Spain and Saudi Arabia.
“Some of these countries tend to rebrand the Iranian saffron and re-export it to other countries. With the sanctions [imposed by the West over Iran’s nuclear program] removed, Iran will hopefully be able to expand exports to more countries, thus the role of the intermediaries will be diminished,” Majdzadeh noted.
She added that the agriculture ministry is working with the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran (TPOI) to register a national brand.
> Bulb Smuggling
She also touched on reports about saffron bulbs being smuggled to Afghanistan, saying law enforcement authorities are investigating the issue and that the agriculture ministry has held meetings with governors of provinces bordering Afghanistan to prevent smuggling.
Earlier, member of Iran’s Council of Saffron Ali Hosseini warned about “the growing trend” of smuggling the bulbs of saffron plant to Afghanistan; saying if the trend continues the neighboring country is likely to replace Iran as the world’s major producer.
“It has been going on for the past 7-8 years. Unfortunately, the smugglers grow in number ever year at the time of harvest season,” he was quoted by Mehr news agency as saying.