Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

A Ray of Hope

Afghanistan has been facing troubles and problems in different sectors and mostly there are pieces of news that point at certain disappointments; however, every now and then there are certain events, accomplishments and news that raise the hopes of the people to a certain extent. These hopes show that there is not complete darkness. There is light and all we have to do is guard that light and try to lighten the other parts of the country through the same. This seems difficult but it is not impossible. It would require determination, honest efforts and above all the willingness to pursue the cause.
One of the rays of hope in Afghanistan’s agricultural sector is saffron. Afghanistan’s saffron is the best in the world and it was announced to be so by International Taste and Quality Institute in Brussels, Belgium. Therefore, it has great value and at the same time high demand. Therefore, every effort should be made to increase its growth so that it should be able to generate more and more income for the country.
The good news is that there are efforts underway in this regard. The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation (MALI) on Saturday announced that 280 tons of saffron bulbs would be distributed to farmers for the reproduction of the crop, saying the ministry also planned to issue licenses to a number of saffron processing companies this year. According to a statement by MALI, 230 out of 280 tons of saffron bulbs would be distributed by the ministry and the rest of others by cooperative organizations. The statement added 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 current amount of saffron product is 5.3 tons, but the amount would be increased to 14 tons in the next five years based on the MALI plan.
Here it is pertinent to mention that these promises should not only remain promises; they should be followed practically. Moreover, there should be efforts to discourage corruption in this sector. If corruption manages to creep in the sector, it would be really difficult to gain the desired outcomes from it.
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, the price of one kg of saffron is about USD 3,000 in Afghanistan and regionally it is around USD 6,000; while the international price may even reach to USD 8,000. 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.