AT-KABUL: Ministry of Agriculture Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) announced that saffron cultivation and product unprecedentedly increased this year in the country.
Asadullah Zamir, agriculture minister declared that saffron-cultivated areas have increased 250% reaching to 2,811 hectares.
He said that the coverage areas in the past 15 years were 1,020 hectares. “This year alone, 1,791 hectares of new lands have been covered by saffron which demonstrates that Afghan farmers are producing more legal produce than ever.”
He said saffron cultivation has expanded to 31 provinces while it was only one few years ago.
“With effective management and strong efforts of MAIL, saffron cultivation has been doubled compared to last year—from 1,020 hectares of lands last year to 2,811 hectares this year”, said the minister.
The increase in saffron production is a result of continued technical, financial and training support provided by MAIL to Afghan farmers, according to the minister.
He called on farmers to grow legal crops instead of poppy and turn Afghanistan to a poppy-free country. Not only this is a major economic and agricultural achievement, but this has significant security implications as well.
Addressing farmers directly, Zamir said: “By growing legal crop, you will make more money, gain government support and work on your land without any fear from law enforcement agencies.”
Cultivation of saffron allows Afghan security forces to concentrate their efforts elsewhere and will deprive the enemies of Afghanistan of a major source of revenue.
The government is determined to help farmers by providing financial support, machinery, storage, seeds, training and new processing methods all of which will pave the way to farmers to export their products outside Afghanistan.
The opening of the railway between Afghanistan and China is a clear example of government’s commitment to supporting the export of Afghan products.
Saffron is one of the products, that will be regularly exported to China using this railway, and will benefit from decreased the transportation costs and faster supply chains.
In May, a senior Afghan delegation visited China to sign six agreements and MoUs with the Chinese authorities to boost business and diplomatic relationship. One of these agreements was about the export of saffron to China.
Based on this agreement, China will support Afghan saffron product and will import it.
It is believed that China, having the biggest population in the world, is a key market for Afghan saffron.
Afghan farmers started growing saffron in 2001. This year, they produced almost six metric tons of saffron.
Afghanistan’s saffron was also named as best saffron in the world for the third time. The Brussels-based International Taste and Quality Institute awarded the accolade after examining some 300 samples earlier this year.