In an attempt to replace opium cultivation in Afghanistan, the Afghan government has continued to increase its efforts to replace the deadly plant with saffron cultivation.
Saffron cultivation began in Herat, in the western part of the country, and is now being grown in 33 provinces of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan. Farmers are being introduced to saffron in some of the most insecure areas in the country as well with the hope that it will replace what they usually grow, opium.
According to officials from the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock, this year saffron trade has been at its highest. The officials also report that Afghanistan is the third largest producer of saffron in the world, hoping to become the second largest in the near future.
With the increased demand from the trade partners, saffron is becoming a lucrative plant for Afghanistan and the Afghan farmers. The increase in the demand has also been helped by the opening of the “air corridors” between Afghanistan and India as well as China and Turkey. Last year, Afghanistan exported 16 tons of saffron. Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture are hopeful to increase the export to correspond to the increasing demand.
Afghanistan remains the top producer of opium in the world. Afghan officials hope to stop the cultivation of opium by introducing new crops that are lucrative as well. In the last year, saffron production reached 18 tons (almost 18,000kg or 39683lbs) 90% of which was exported to US, Europe, China, India, and some Arab countries. Given that it is a new plant that the Afghan farmers grow, 18 tons seems to be quite impressive for the country in a short time. Saffron was first introduced to replace opium in Afghanistan in 2006. Today a kilo (about 2lbs) of saffron sells for $900 in Afghanistan. A pound of saffron in the US can go for as high as $4500.
Tolo News 11/18/19; Tolo News 8/30/18; Tolo News 4/29/19; Afghanistan Saffron Co. n.d.