Saffron has now changed to one of the best source of income and good alternative of poppy and opium in Afghanistan. After Herat where saffron is considered as better source of income, saffron cultivation has increased considerably in most of provinces in particular Balkh.
Officials for provincial directorate of agriculture, irrigation and livestock say lots of good and positive works have been followed in agriculture section in particular cultivation of saffron in Balkh province during the past few years as cultivation of saffron has covered now nearly 270 acres of agricultural fields in 10 districts of the province.
“Saffron as a good alternative of poppy and opium is now in national strategy of Afghanistan government; therefore, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) is working now to promote cultivation of saffron in various parts of the country as provincial directorate of agriculture, irrigation and livestock in Balkh has been able to promote the program in the province,” said Eng. Mohammad Salem Sapai, provincial director of agriculture, irrigation and livestock.
He asserted that farmers get 1.5 kg saffron from 1 acre agricultural field, adding that provincial directorate of agriculture was working on a mechanism to increase production level of saffron in agricultural fields in the province.
Pointing to role of women in collecting and cultivation of saffron in Balkh province, provincial director of agriculture, irrigation and livestock said that role and presence of women in collecting and cultivation of saffron is considerable, adding that currently 90 women are working in processing of saffron in Balkh.
In connection with increasing of saffron cultivation in the province and private companies that are processing saffron, Eng. Mohammad Alem Sapai said: “Besides that most of farmers are engaged in cultivation of saffron in various parts of the province, that they use and sell saffron in nearby markets of villages and districts.”
He added that there were three private companies responsible for processing and collecting saffron as 140 kg saffron has been processed and sent to domestic and foreign markets in the past one year.
He further said that provincial directorate of agriculture, irrigation and livestock in Balkh was working to expand production of saffron in the province to implement MAIL’s strategy as the directorate has distributed 12,500 kg saffron onions to women and families who were interested in cultivation of saffron in the province.
Other than in Balkh, 25 more provinces are cultivating saffron, and in the last year alone, about 4 tons were exported to the US, Germany, Britain and other countries. The Afghan Ministry of Commerce and Industry considers saffron one of the country’s most important exports.
Last month, the Afghan Saffron Company was ranked number one in the world for quality by the International Taste and Quality Institute. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry said that the Afghan Saffron Company operates the production, processing, packaging and marketing of saffron.
Last year, Afghanistan’s saffron secured the top position among 16 other competing countries.