Afghanistan exports above 4 tonnes saffron last year: Rahimi
Mohammad Asif Rahmi told Pajhwok Afghan News during an interview that efforts made to promote the plant production had been successful so far.
Under a long term programme, the minister said farmers in other provinces were sent to western Herat, where highest level of saffron is cultivated, to practically learn growing techniques before they were handed saffron bulbs.
Farmers cultivate saffron bulbs in late August and reap the purple flowers in mid October. The red filaments of saffron - the aromatic thread-like substances globally used for a variety of purposes, including herbal medicine, colour dyes, perfume and food seasoning - are then collected from each flower by hand, often by women at home.
Deemed as viable alternative to poppy, Rahimi said farmers in most of provinces had been introduced to the plant and pilot projects had been successful in 20 provinces.
Saffron produced in Afghanistan is identified as one of the world's best, the minister said, adding more than four tonnes of saffron were directly exported to the US, Germany, the UK and other countries last year.
Afghanistan Saffron Growers Association head Bashir Ahmad Rashidi said farmers warmly welcomed saffron cultivation because it was highly profitable and compatible with the climate and soil and its cultivation did not require highly advanced irrigation.
He said three tonnes of saffron were exported to foreign countries from Herat alone last year, when five tonnes of saffron bulbs were distributed to farmers across the country.
Rashidi has no figures for land on which saffron was cultivated last year in provinces, but said 3,250 jirbs of land was specified for it in Herat.
Abdul Ghaffar Hamidzai, director of Afghanistan's largest saffron company in Herat, said the company exported 500 kilograms of saffron last year. He said there had been 120kg increase in exports last year, compared to 2011. It was exported to the US, Germany, Italy and Spain making $1600 per kg, he added.
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