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    Herat farmers upbeat about saffron yield

    HERAT CITY (PAN): Saffron Framers' Association (SFA) on Wednesday announced a 20 percent increase in cultivation during the current year in western Herat province.

    Saffron is a fruitful, expensive plant used to flavour and colour food. The spice is actually the dried stigma crocus, a species of the iris family commonly known as saffron.

    Local officials and farmers say a kilogram of pure saffron accounted for $1,445 (70,000 afs) to $3,096 last year.

    Bashir Ahmad Rashidi, the SFA director, told Pajhwok Afghan News the recent cold spell did not affect the harvest.

    In October, the agriculture department announced that saffron would be cultivated on 360 acres of land, expecting a 30pc hike in its growth before the end of its cultivation season.

    The growing of saffron has doubled during the current year, said Ghafar Hamidzai, the head of Afghan Saffron Company. "Last year, we farmed 30 acres of land in Angel and Guzara districts, and cultivated 25 acres of land this year," he said.

    He said 20 agriculture promotion officers and farmers were working under the auspices of the company to expand saffron farming. Likewise, the SFA estimated 1,000 acres of saffron cultivation, with a 20pc increase this year.

    However, Rashidi said the survey was not accurate and his association had launched another study to ascertain exact figures. "The review would take place in the entire areas, where saffron is planted and the findings will be announced in the next 10 days," he added.  

    Saffron grows best in warm sub-tropical climates and its cultivation needs a warm climate, hot and dry weather in summer, but cold in winter. The land must be dry and flat. Currently, a kg of saffron costs $ 1,734.

    Saffron blooms in November and December, and is usually harvested before the sunrise. Herat is one of the leading saffron-growing provinces. The Ministry of Agriculture has distributed 75 tonnes of saffron corms to farmers in 14 other provinces.

    mrh /mbg/mud



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