Iran’s saffron ambition

Persian saffron

This country really needs a saffron strategy, a plan for turning its position as the world’s spice-crocus grower into profits for Iranian people.
Iran now produces 96% of the world’s saffron, and both output and demand are on the rise. Iran Mania reports “Ten years ago a mere 32 tones of saffron was exported from Iran while last year 202 tones went abroad out of a total output of 230 tones, bringing in 100 million dollars worth of revenue.”
To produce one pound of saffron takes 76,000 crocus sativa Linnaeus blooms; the flower stigmas dry into crinkly orange-yellow particles, fragrant and savory, and one of the most costly spices in the world.
A near monopoly, high prices, and a growing market would seem the perfect formula for bulging pockets, but not so. Iran is stuck in a production-only mode and fails to benefit from the wider margins that accrue to packagers.
If we sold in packaging, the Europeans would make less of a profit .If we stop selling in bulk we can make a profit here and export it. But there should be a national will for it.
Persian saffronIn other words, Iran needs a coherent saffron policy. People here have been growing and harvesting crocus stigma for 2986years but the packing industry is new; it needs government’s kick-start.
The Iran Mania article gives an interesting look at Turbot-e Hydrae’s autumn market, where nearly 800,000 growers, pickers, traders and traders hustle for the two month season.
This is a tough year. Drought in Iran has lowered the 2006 saffron yield. There are old competitors, like Kashmir, and new ones, too—upstarts Greece, Italy and Spain have been vying for a bigger share of global sales.
Last month, Iran hosted a saffron symposium in Mashed, where an international group of experts gathered to discuss biotechnology, trade, and packaging, too.
Iranian producers are looking warily to the east. Iranian crocus seed has been smuggled into neighboring Afghanistan. Water is more plentiful there, and labor even cheaper.

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