Editor in Chief: Dr. Hussain Yasa Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Afghan Saffron Ranked the Best, Again!

The production of saffron in Afghanistan has proved to be very productive and positive. It has brought a new ray of hope for Afghan economy and a substitute for poppy cultivation. Moreover, Afghan saffron has proved to be of high quality as well. In a recent report, the International Taste and Quality Institute in Brussels ranked Afghan saffron the best in the world in taste and quality amongst 300 samples from different countries. Afghanistan acquired recognition on international scale for its saffron products in a very short period of time due to its unique qualities. In international market, Afghan saffron products compete with saffron products from Iran and Spain.
It seems that the efforts which were made earlier in the year so as to produce quality saffron have had some positive results. The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) had distributed 280 tons of saffron bulbs to farmers for the reproduction of the crop, and it had also planned to issue licenses to a number of saffron processing companies. Moreover, the ministry was able to implement its major plans this year such as creating laboratories, training and issuing standard licenses for improving the production of saffron and extending its irrigation areas.
The majority of saffron producers in Afghanistan are ISO certified and export their products to Gulf countries, Europe, and the United States. The average price for Afghanistan's saffron is $2,000/kg due to its quality and fragrance. The current amount of saffron product is around 5.3 tons, but the amount would be increased to 14 tons in the next five years based on the MALI plan.
President Ashraf Ghani affirmed the ratification of the strategy. The Office of the President further stated that it directed the relevant government bodies to implement a procedure under which the Afghan saffron packages are to be labeled with unique bar codes to prevent product fraud. Ghani indicated that investors from the United Arab Emirates and China are interested in creating markets for Afghan saffron in their respective countries and he welcomes any efforts in this regard. Afghanistan can produce more saffron than any other saffron producing country if necessary support is provided to farmers.
In addition, it should also be noted that saffron can help us in some other ways as well. It can be used as an alternative crop to discourage poppy cultivation in the country that has been influencing our country in various ways. It has not only given us the evil of drug addiction that is taking the lives of many Afghan youth but has also strengthened the terrorism and terrorist networks as most of the Taliban terrorists receive their funding from poppy business.
It is important to understand that one of the best ways to control poppy is to motivate the farmers not to grow the poppy crops from the very beginning. Motivating farmers and landlords to grow saffron as an alternative crop can be one of the best solutions as it is practicable and may bring the farmers and landlords profit as well.
Saffron has different advantages as compared to poppy cultivation and among them the most important one is that it does not bring harm to human life, it is legal and does not go against the teachings of Islam. It is one of those crops that have the capability to be grown in dry environment. Moreover, it does not need much irrigation as well. Simple irrigation two or three times a year would do the trick; in that sense, it is draught resistant. Poppy cultivation, in contrast, would require an extensive irrigation plan – six times a year.    
Saffron has different uses and, in fact, makes life healthier. The common use of saffron can be found in adding flavor to dishes, preparing different types of medicines, hot drinks, appetizers and perfumes. Moreover, it has demand in the international market as well.
According to market studies, regionally the price of saffron is around USD 5,000; while the international price may even reach to USD 7,000. This shows that it is very lucrative and can be used as one of the basic exports of Afghanistan. It is also important to mention that the demand for saffron is very high both in regional and international markets.
What Afghan authorities and people require in this regard is proper implementations of their policies to change the scenario. It is true that the producers of drugs have stronghold in our country, but unshakable decision both by government authorities and Afghan people can defeat them. If Afghan authorities are really interested in making saffron as the leading export of the country and controlling the menace of drugs and stopping it from financing terrorism and bringing sufferings and death to common Afghan people through addiction, it has to launch a comprehensive strategy for the growth, production and proper export of saffron.