The Kabul Times.
Economic

International markets available for Afghanistan saffron or red gold

By: Shukria Kohistani

Due to its high prices in the world markets and its frequent use, saffron has been named “Red Gold”.
It is a herb that has been planted since few years in Herat and growers and traders earn good benefit from it. Hundreds hectar land in Enjil, Gozara, Ghoryan, Zindajan and Pashtonzarghoon districts, Herat province are under saffron plantation that has caused many people to call Herat as the saffron city. The name of saffron has been tied with Herat.
Despite the efforts of government and active trading companies in the field of saffron, still there are problems in this sphere, for example: saffron is exported to global markets in the name of Indian saffron.
Due to problems in packing, cultivation, harvesting and standard processing, it seems that Afghanistan should traverse a long way to be changed to first exporter of saffron in the world.
The officials of Herat provincial agriculture department said that it is predicted that this year, over 17 tonnes saffron would be harvested in that province while last year 15 tonnes were harvested. They expressed hope to be the world biggest saffron exporters.
It should be said that saffron is a medicinal herb that its growing and harvesting has remarkably developed in Herat in recent years. Data provided by Herat agriculture department show that 6000-7000 hectar lands have been saffron planted there.
Saffron harvest increases every year. Addressing the media, deputy director of Herat provincial agriculture department Bashir Ahmad Ahmadi said that in recent years the government has been encouraging farmers to grow saffron because climate, weather, soil and air of Herat is suitable for growing of this herb, therefore big investments have taken place in this sector.
According to anticipations, Afghanistan is expected to be the biggest saffron exporter in the globe in 10-15 years.
although last year saffron price was dropped to Afs 40000 per kilo but this year it increased to Afs 80000 per kilo.
Despite of efforts of the Afghan government to support saffron growers and traders, there are still problems in this field and it seems that the course of competition of Afghan growers with other saffron producing countries is not even. Some saffron growers warn that due to available problems sometimes they think to grow poppy instead of saffron.
With promotion of saffron growing in Herat and its good price in globle markets, most farmers gave up poppy cultivation and resorted to saffron growing. Mohammad Ibrahim Adel a saffron grower in Herat said, permanent market fluctuations have inflicted heavy damages to farmers as saffron price fluctuates like foreign currencies. According to saffron growers, major problems include non-standard harvesting, lack of warehouses, spring houses, improper packing and unacquaintance of farmers with modern technologies.
In opinion of saffron traders, the government should make effort to introduce Afghanistan saffron to world markets and encourage consuming countries of saffron to import Afghan packed saffron.
Afghanistan saffron is exported to Persian Gulf Arabic countries as well as India, China, Turkey, Russia, US, Canada and European countries. 

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The Kabul Times.