Iran’s Saffron Matchless in the World; But Afghanistan Denting Business

Iran’s saffron exports business has been dented due to massive (legal and illegal) shipments of the saffron bulb to Afghanistan over the past decade. This has resulted in Afghanistan turning into a big rival for Iranian saffron, according to Iran’s Saffron Exports Development Fund board of directors.

According to Tribune, even though restraints have been put on the export of saffron bulb under President Rouhani’s government, it appears that Kabul does not need to import saffron bulb anymore because it has already imported enough, legally and illegally, between 2005 and 2013. Farhad Saharkhiz believes saffron bulb is among Iran’s “genetic resources” and there should be special supervision over its exports.

Due to its nature, the saffron bulb can be carried 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, damaging Iran’s domestic saffron production,” he said.

Noting that Iranian saffron is matchless 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 global production. The country annually produces over 300 tons of saffron.

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, 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 is grown in the two provinces of South Khorasan and Khorasan Razavi in northeastern Iran.

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