Afghan saffron is considered among the best in the world and has scooped a number of top prizes through the years.
Low Quality Foreign Saffron Passed Off As Afghan Product
The ACCI raised concerns this week about the smuggling of saffron into the country which is then sold on as an Afghan product.
Nasir Ahmad Durani Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock this week briefed MPs in the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) on the illicit trade and said it was having a negative impact on the sector.
Durani revealed that mafia syndicates are smuggling low quality saffron into Afghanistan and then exporting it as an Afghan product.
Afghan saffron is considered among the best in the world and has scooped international awards on numerous occasions.
According to Durani the smuggling operations are being run by mafia groups and he and his family have faced many threats in the past.
“Last year, we harvested more than ten tons of saffron, but our exports were more than 15 tons. And this not only reduces the value of Afghanistan's saffron, but it also damages Afghanistan’s reputation,” Durani said.
Meanwhile, a number of MPs called on the minister to name these mafia syndicates.
“When the minister speaks of saffron smuggling and does not give us documents from people working in this sector, how can we help the ministry to stop the smugglers? " said Ramazan Bashardost a parliament member.
Afghanistan's saffron, which has increasingly been imported over the past four years, is popular on the global market.
The Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) said meanwhile that this year the total export volume could be 12 tons.
“We exported more than five tons of saffron in the first quarter of this year; maybe this year's figure will reach more than 12 tons,” said Mir Zaman Popal, director of export for the chamber of commerce and industry.
Saffron farmers have said however that Iran is smuggling their low quality saffron into the country and exporting it as an Afghan product. They said if this practice continues Afghan saffron will develop a bad reputation on international markets.
A few years ago, Afghanistan government and donors started promoting saffron as a legal alternative to the cultivation of opium poppy, as a commodity that fits with a market-led approach to Afghanistan’s agricultural sector and as a crop that can enhance women’s participation in economic activities and their productive role outside the household.
According to the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) the planting of saffron provides the basis for growth and employment creation envisaged in the country.