Iran’s saffron seeks global recognition
Published: 02:44 PM, 29 November 2018 Updated: 02:44 PM, 29 November 2018
The laborers edge their way across a field of bright purple flowers gathering up the world’s most expensive spice, a bounty that makes this dusty corner of Iran a crucial part of global cuisine.
The delicate purple leaves of the Crocus sativus plant hold just three or four of the even more delicate red stamen, better known as saffron that sprouts for just 10 days a year.
These tiny filaments are currently selling in local markets for 90 million rials per kilo — about $700 on Iran’s volatile exchanges — and perhaps four times higher abroad.
The government says more than 90 percent of the world’s saffron grows from the hard soil in Khorasan province of northeastern Iran — a figure corroborated by France’s specialist institute of agriculture and fishing FranceAgriMer — eventually finding its way into Spanish paellas, Indian curries, Swedish saffron buns and much more.
India is a distant second, followed by Greece, Morocco, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, and Spain, according to a FranceAgriMer report in 2013.
The star producer in Iran is the small town of Torbat-e Heydariyeh, about 700 kilometers (435 miles) east of Teheran — which accounts for a third of global production, according to FranceAgriMer.
But poor marketing means Iran has not always won the credit it deserves as the home of saffron, having mostly exported it wholesale to other countries who label it as their own.
“All the cultivation is done here, but the marketing and sales are done elsewhere,” local parliament member Saeid Bastani told AFP.
“The people of the world should know that all saffron — of any brand in any market in the world — is Iranian whether it says Spain, Italy or Switzerland,” he added with just a sprinkle of patriotic exaggeration. The government is working with local businesses and farmers to fix the problem.
From his swish new factory on the outskirts of Mashhad, Ali Shariati, CEO of Novin Saffron, sends out around 15 tons of high-grade saffron to world markets each year and is spearheading “Made in Iran” efforts.
It’s tricky because the major markets each have their own saffron needs that require specific packaging and branding — Spain wants powder for paella, Britain likes entire threads for Indian cuisine, Sweden likes tiny capsules for seasonal saffron treats.
“We have to keep innovating and adapting so we can compete with the marketing in other countries,” said Shariati.
Other issues are forcing innovation on the industry — most pressingly, the devastating drought that has hit Iran’s dry regions for the past two decades.
Saffron plants require much less water than many other crops, but the drought is still causing a migration northwards.
“The land being cultivated is gradually moving north, but that means they’re moving into wetter regions and that’s no good because the quality is better in dry areas,” said Amin Rezaee, a farmer in the heart of the saffron country — around two hours’ drive south of Mashhad.
Like most farmers, he has been sucking water out of the ground to water his land, but now realizes he must invest in more sophisticated irrigation systems if he wants it to survive.
“It’s a problem that people are irrigating in traditional ways. They must start to invest in modern methods,” he said.
At his factory, Shariati said the problem is easily solvable with better education and support for villagers, which could boost Iran’s production from 400 to 1,000 tonnes per year.
The biggest issue for farmers, he recognized, was navigating Iran’s nightmarish banking sector, which is notoriously reluctant to lend to small businesses.
So under a new “fair trade” scheme his firm now organizes loans on farmers’ behalf, bulk-buys equipment at cheaper prices, and provides education on farming techniques.
“We’re educating at least 20,000 farmers and we have guaranteed purchases contracts with 4,000,” he said.
“We want them to deliver more organic saffron and improve their lives at the same time.”
‘Salt, pepper, saffron’
The other obstacle is Iran’s struggling economy, which has lately seen wild fluctuations in the currency, in part due to US sanctions.
“The price of bulbs, fertilizer, and laborers have all trebled this year, but the price of saffron has only doubled,” said Mohamad Jafari, whose family has been selling saffron in the small town of Torbat-e Heydariyeh for half a century.
That is good for exports, but another blow for Iranians hit by soaring prices.
Still, most people in the saffron trade remain upbeat.
International sales have been boosted in the past five years by increasing interest from China, and foodstuffs are protected from US sanctions — making it a priority export for the government.
“The biggest problem with saffron is that people don’t know about saffron,” said Shariati.
“We want them to think ‘salt, pepper, saffron’.”
- All you need to know about Islamic New Year
- Lightning kills 9 in 4 districts
- `Action against who discourage Rohingya `
- August 15 and 21 are in same knot
- First successful Air-raid in history
- Kashmir: Bone of contention between India-Pakistan
- Israel detains 16 Palestinians in West Bank raids
- Golden fibre makes farmer smile
- Govt to recruit 61 thousand primary teacher
- 15 houses fined having Aedes larvae in city
- Mother’s fight to fulfill daughter’s wish
- 3-day ‘Tree Fair’ begins in Manirampur
- ‘Sonar Bangla should be established to pay homage to Bangabandhu’
- Soroj Mehedi becomes BD Chief executive to MEDCOM-2020
- Big profit in little invest
- PEC exam schedule published
- Commerce Minister sought Brazil’s help to rise export
- Soumitra Chatterjee discharged from hospital
- Israel seeks to beat PTSD with ‘ecstasy’ therapy
- Mechanized farming in Bishwanath
- Mosharraf Karim flew to Canada on birthday!
- Air-ticket on mobile app
- Rohingya refused to go back
- Hardware security keys for Two-Factor Authentication!
- 2,549 dengue patients return home after recovery in Khulna
- 3 mobile operators gave Tk 9k crore to google-Facebook
- PM urges to improve Biman’s passenger services
- Nurse murdered over ‘triangle extra-marital affair’
- Rangpur farmers happy with better jute price
- Bubly wants to work with another instead of Shakib
- All News »
- Visiting Largest Fish Aquarium of Bangladesh
- Truck driver rescues girl from rape on moving bus
- Yarsagumba: World’s most expensive medicinal fungus
- 7 killed as auto-rickshaw crashes into bus
- Momo stares in Hindi film!
- PM receives Modi’s invitation letter
- Sabbir invites PM to his wedding
- Bollywood hot cake Sunny Leone now in Dhallywood
- Kona disclosed her marriage 3 months later!
- Immortal sayings of Bangabandhu
- Army Chief off to Indonesia Sunday
- Fire breaks out at Mirpur slum
- Nayan`s last SMS to Minni
- App launches to prevent dengue
- Man United faces Wolverhampton tonight
- Hong Kong protesters march peacefully
- Medical admission test on Oct 4
- Apu Biswas comebacks
- 4 of a family killed in M’singh bus-car collision
- La Liga: Atletico Madrid faces Getafe tonight
- Jyoti’s new film in Kolkata
- Mirpur slum fire doused
- Champions League qualifying match tonight
- DU increases registration time for 52nd convocation
- Two Bangladeshis killed in Saudi road crash
- 9th wage board: Hearing on state appeal ends
- BCB seek clarity from Mashrafe Mortaza about ODI future
- Minni’s bail petition to HC again
- Pak-India war! 8 soldiers killed on LoC
- ‘National School Meal Act-2019’ draft approves