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Editorial: Saffron—spice of life

It is amazing t see dozens of women and men early morning are harvesting the delicate purple flowers (saffron), putting all-out efforts to rapidly gather as many as they can before the sun gets too hot—this is worth appreciation and worth commendable as Afghanistan’s saffron is number one in the world due to their tireless efforts. Don’t forget, saffron is the most expensive spice in the globe—the price for one kilogram is around $1,200-$1,800. There is a huge demand for Afghan saffron in the world market, and the credit goes to the farmers, especially to the women who engaged in saffron cultivation largely. It is not an easy task; about 150 flowers are needed to produce a single gram of saffron. And our saffron has a reputation for being particularly flavorful because of the terrain and harsh climate around in Herat province where mostly saffron grown. But now it has been expended to 30 other provinces—and southern Paktia province has yielded 18kg of high quality saffron last year, and work has been on card for its increase as already 1,000kg saffron bulbs distributed to the farmer in the province. Moreover, economically it is also very good. Since there is job limitation for Afghan masses, particularly to women, saffron cultivation helping women to find jobs—mostly women are doing harvesting and processing that really have good impact on the their economy situation. This also help us in removing poverty—if each family had half of jerib or one jerib of land for saffron—the country would be saved from poverty. It is worth mentioning that it could also be a great alternative to poppy. A decade of war and lawlessness has pushed many farmers to cultivate poppy, however saffron has long been seen as a substitute crop to opium poppies for poor farmers. Unlikely, so far it has had little impact on the opium, but effort is underway to replace it in shortest time. We have 2,000 history of saffron cultivation, but unfortunately there is huge confusion as some thinks the industry was revived by refugees mostly return from Iran. This is totally injustice—Afghan saffron has been remained constantly number one in global market—and now the name of Afghan saffron is an international brand. If one compares Iranian saffron with Afghan, would find a visible difference—there is a huge divergence in quality and taste as well. Nevertheless, taking note of saffron expansion, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock informed of five saffron processing centers in different provinces to be upgraded and fitted with new equipment. Two laboratories are also currently under construction that will help for testing the quality of saffron and for detecting disease in the plants.

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