Iran ‘red gold’ output to hit 300 metric tons

Iran’s production of the world’s most expensive spice known as “red gold” is expected to hit 300 metric tons this year thanks to better rainfall, officials say. 

Precipitations at the start of the Iranian year in March in the Khorasan province which produces the bulk of saffron have resulted in better flowering of the plant and a rise in yield, Ali Hosseini of the National Saffron Council said Tuesday.

The province, where saffron thrives better than anywhere else across Iran, produced 210 metric tons of the crop last year, Hosseini said.

Iran is the world’s largest producer and exporter of the ingredient staple used to flavor food and pastries, with further application in medicine and cosmetics. First harvest of the reddish, aromatic plant dates back to 3,000 years ago in Iran.

With a monopoly over more than 90% of saffron output, Iran exports to more than 50 countries across the world where demand for the pricey spice is always high because of its premium quality due to the country’s unique ecology.

Sales were not dented even by US-led sanctions which have left few sectors of the Iranian economy unscathed.

Saffron is a labor-intensive crop which needs 250,000 flimsy crimson red strands to be plucked laboriously by hand from about 75,000 crocus blooms to make a pound.

The flowers must be picked early in the morning before the scent is lost to the heat of the day and then dried. Saffron production employs as many as 100,000 Iranians either directly or indirectly in the country of 80 million.

A family picks saffron flowers at a farm in Torbat Heydarieh in northeast Iran.

Each kilo of the Iranian saffron retails for $2,000 in global markets and its comparison with gold is not without a reason. It can cost more than the precious metal with each gram of the premium Iranian crop able to fetch $65.

However, Iran and worst of all its farmers profit little from trade in saffron because of bulk shipments of the produce to the UAE, Spain and other countries where the crop is packaged and sold for better value added.

Even Afghanistan which borders Iran’s Khorasan is reportedly receiving stocks from Iran and re-selling the Iranian saffron.

Iranian officials blame speculators for the situation, saying they reap the benefits through intervention in the market which has caused prices to rise to record highs this year.

By Press TV