Afghanistan turns into rival for Iranian saffron

Financial Tribune- Iran’s saffron exports have been hard hit as a result of huge loads of legal and illegal shipments of saffron bulb to neighboring Afghanistan over the past decade.

“This turned Afghanistan into a serious rival for Iranian saffron,” Iran’s Saffron Exports Development Fund board of directors’ member was quoted as saying by IRNA.

Farhad Saharkhiz believes saffron bulb is among Iran’s “genetic resources” and there should be special supervision over its exports.

“Although curbs have been put on the export of saffron bulb under President Hassan Rouhani’s government, it seems Afghanistan does not need to import saffron bulb anymore because it has already imported enough, legally and illegally, between 2005 and 2013,” he said.

Saharkhiz notes that due to its nature, saffron bulb can be transported even when it is not cultivation season, making it really easy for smuggling.

“Adding to the problem, Afghan businessmen presently buy Iranian saffron and sell on global markets under their own name, hurting Iran’s domestic saffron production,” he said.

Noting that Iranian saffron is unrivaled in the world, he said the government should strictly prevent the export of saffron bulb.

Iran is the world’s biggest saffron producer and accounts for more than 90% of the global production. The country annually produces over 300 tons of saffron. Per capita consumption of saffron in the Middle East country stands at 1 gram. Annually, some 80 tons of saffron are consumed domestically.

According to Gholamreza Miri, chairman of Iran’s National Saffron Center, more than 172 tons of saffron worth $246.7 million were exported from Iran to 47 countries in the last Iranian year that ended on March 20, 2017. The figure showed a 32.3% rise in weight compared to the preceding year.

Latest statistics show more than 58.2 tons of saffron worth $78.58 million were exported to 50 countries during the first four months of the current fiscal year (March 21-July 22), registering a 25.3% and 22.9% growth in weight and value respectively compared with the corresponding period of last year.

Spain, Australia, South Africa, Germany, the UAE, Italy, Bahrain, the UK, the US, Belgium, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Taiwan, Turkey, the Czech Republic, South Korea and China were among the main export destinations of Iranian saffron over the period.

Close to 95% of Iranian saffron are grown in the two provinces of South Khorasan and Khorasan Razavi in northeastern Iran.