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    Kunduz farmers to cultivate saffron

    KUNDUZ CITY (PAN): Farmers in northern Kunduz province have been provided with saffron seeds to convince them to give up cultivation of poppy, an official said on Monday.

    Agriculture Director Azizullah Aimaq said his department had imported and distributed 5.5 tonnes of saffron to 42 farmers last week. Growers in some districts and the provincial capital have started sowing it.

    Each farmer was given 100 to 200 kilograms of seeds, he said, promising growers in Aliabad, Chardara, Dasht-i-Archi, Qala-i-Zal, Imam Sahib and Khanabad districts and the provincial capital would also be provided with fertiliser.

    Saffron could be cultivated in areas where the weather is hot in summer and warm in winter. According to a study of agriculture experts, Kunduz soil and climatic conditions were fit for saffron cultivation, the director added.

    A key objective behind promoting saffron cultivation was to wean the people from growing opium poppies, Aimaq said. Farmers have already been trained on saffron sowing.

     Mohammad Naseem, 35, a farmer from Aliabad district, promised he would not cultivate poppies on his land now that he had received saffron seeds. "Cultivating saffron involves less effort than poppies."

    Although trained in saffron growing, the man said he was worried to find buyers for his produce. In this regard, he asked the government for help.

    The director said the government would help farmers in this regard. In case of a good harvest, the government would increase the distribution of saffron seeds to farmers, he concluded.