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Herat: Saffron price goes 90pc up in recent years

Herat: Saffron price goes 90pc up in recent years

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Oct 12, 2017 - 08:36

HERAT CITY (Pajhwok): “Fifteen years back, I exported five kilograms of saffron to Iran but no one bought it there, so I brought it back to Herat, I finally sold a kilogram for 9,000 afghanis to a pharmacist.”

This was recalled by Nisar Ahmad, a resident of Pashton Zargon district of Herat province, who is among five persons who promoted saffron in their district for the first time.

The 60-years-old Ahmad said currently the price of a kilogram of saffron hovered between 90,000 to 100,000 afghanis in local markets.

Experts believe the price of saffron produced in Afghanistaninfo-icon could increase by several times abroad if packaged in a standard manner.

Nisar Ahmad said, Mullahinfo-icon Akbar (now known as father of saffron), Arbab Abdur Razaq and Mullah Habibullah from Pashton Zarghon district were pioneers of saffron cultivation. Ahmad, who had studied up to grade nine, said his family did not allow him to continue his educationinfo-icon.

As hundreds of thousands of Afghans including educated people are jobless in Afghanistan, Ahmad with his little education is now a specialist in promoting saffron in the country.

Ahmad said saffron farmers from Kapisa, Farah, Balkh and some other provinces sought his advises about saffron cultivation in recent years.

Still physically strong, Ahmad said: “Mahmood Karzai, brother of former president Hamid Karzai invited me to Kandahar to provide him information about saffron promotion.”

He said womeninfo-icon in Kandahar did not work outside home. “I told Karzai that cultivation of saffron is a man’s job but its picking—a delicate work—is the job of women because it requires much patience and accuracy,” he said.

He said saffron could not be promoted without women’s partnership as women’s support in this area was required in all countries.

“I once met with Ahmad Zia Massoud for attracting government’s support for saffron promotion in Herat, we also discussed that the plant would be a good alternative to poppy, but unfortunately the agricultureinfo-icon and counternarcotics ministers who were present in the meeting had no information about saffron,” he said.

Government’s inattention to support saffron cultivation has paved the ground for narcotics promotion in Afghanistan, he said, adding drugs could not be controlled despite spending millions of US dollars on counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan over the past 16 years.

Nisar Ahmad said saffron was a good alternative to poppy and the Afghan government should support farmers in this regard.

He said the Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR) was the first organization that encouraged him and other farmers in Herat.

Najibullah Qarizada, who has acquired medical education and has business experience, said he returned from Turkey to Herat two months ago and was interested in saffron cultivation.

He obtained 10 acres of land on lease in Injil district with three shareholders for saffron cultivation.

He said saffron was cultivated in October and it started appearing from the earth in a few weeks. The plant starts blossoming once it grows well and its onions in the final (fifth) year increases by multiple times”, he added.

Qarizada said each four kilograms of saffron onions cost from 900 to 1,300 afghanis in Herat. “Each half acre of land yields 480 to 600 kilograms of saffron onions.”

Herat is one of the busiest markets for saffron union in Afghanistan. Qarizada said the ground should be first softened and then applied with fertilizer before planting saffron onions 25 centimeters deep in the soil.

He said saffron rows should be distant enough from each other so the harvest was protected from being damaged during collection. Each onion should be planted three to five centimeters away from each other.

Qarizada said he used to hire more than 2,000 workers from cultivation until collection of the saffron and paid each 350 afghanis as daily wage.

In the face of high jobless graph and economic problems in Afghanistan, growing saffron is one of the highest sources of creating work opportunities in the agriculture sector. It is also one of the best alternatives to poppy and a best exporting product.

But challenges that threaten growing saffron in Afghanistan also exist. Insecurity is one of the biggest challenges in many areas of the country while unawareness of farmers about cultivation of saffron is the second biggest problem.

Lack of government’s support in providing saffron seeds, distributing fertilizer and technical tools are other problems facing saffron cultivation.

According to experts Afghanistan exported six to seven tons of saffron last year. But experts anticipate eight or 10 tons of export this year.

Afghanistan saffron is sold in all worldinfo-icon markets, particularly in the United States, India and European countries. Afghanistan saffron won first position for its quality in the world last year.

mds/ma

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