Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, July 11th, 2020

Decline in Saffron Production

Saffron in Afghanistan has been a ray of hope for the future of the country. Unfortunately, it does not seem to be managed properly by the authorities, which is turning hopes into fears. The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (MAIL) reported on Saturday that Saffron production has dropped by around 50 percent during the recent years. According to a statement released by MAIL, the farmers and Saffron producers were previously harvesting and producing 4 kgs of Saffron from each hectare of land cultivated with Saffron plant. However, the production level of Saffron has dropped to 2.6 kgs per hectare of land during the past 17 years which shows a production vacuum of 80 percent.
MAIL statement also highlighted that the production level of Saffron has declined mainly due to lack of access of farmers to modern cultivation practices and equipment, lack of access to high quality Saffron plants, lack of awareness regarding modern procedures to increase the cultivation of Saffron plants, and lack of information regarding the proper timing to irrigate the plants, mainly the irrigation process in the first stage after plants are cultivated.
The situation mentioned is really serious and requires proper attention and tangible measures by the authorities. The authorities must realize that 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 report in 2017, 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. The average price for Afghanistan’s saffron is $3,000/kg due to its quality and fragrance.
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. The current decline in production should be considered seriously and efforts must be made to improve the production as per the potentials so that maximum outcomes can be achieved.