- Title: Spice of life: Saffron offers jobs, opportunity for Afghans
- Date: 23rd November 2016
- Summary: KARUKH, HERAT PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN (RECENT - NOVEMBER 5, 2016) (REUTERS) AFGHAN WOMEN CARRYING BASKETS AND WALKING IN SAFFRON FIELD SAFFRON FLOWER AFGHAN WOMEN KNEELING DOWN TO BEGIN HARVESTING SAFFRON FLOWERS VARIOUS OF AFGHAN WOMEN HARVESTING SAFFRON FLOWERS AFGHAN WOMEN PUTTING SAFFRON FLOWERS INTO YELLOW CONTAINERS (SOUNDBITE) (Dari) HEAD OF WORKERS AT ARIANA SAFFRON COMPANY, KHANUM RASSOLI, SAYING: "If the government provides saffron seeds to the farmers, this will help the farmers increase saffron cultivation, and in the meantime there will be more job opportunities for women because all of the saffron workers are women, and they take part in the saffron harvesting and sorting process." AFGHAN FARMER WORKING IN SAFFRON FIELD SAFFRON FLOWERS FARMER LOOKING AT SAFFRON FLOWERS IN FIELD (SOUNDBITE) (Dari) SAFFRON FARMER, GUL AHMAD, SAYING: "I ask all of the farmers to increase saffron cultivation and encourage young people to take up this profession so we can build and develop our country through this business." HERAT, HERAT PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN (RECENT - NOVEMBER 6, 2016) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF TRAFFIC ON STREETS HEAD OF ARIANA SAFFRON COMPANY, BASHIR AHMAD RASHIDI, WALKING INTO HIS OFFICE BASHIR AHMAD SITTING AT HIS DESK (SOUNDBITE) (Dari) HEAD OF THE AFGHAN ARIANA SAFFRON COMPANY, BASHIR AHMAD RASHIDI, SAYING: "Based on our information, Afghan saffron is being exported to France, Sweden, Germany, the United States, China, Turkey, India and United Arab countries, there is a huge demand for Afghan saffron in the international markets." AFGHAN WOMEN SITTING AT TABLE AT THE ARIANA SAFFRON FACTORY AND PICKING STIGMAS FROM SAFFRON FLOWERS STIGMAS IN BOWL AFGHAN WOMAN PICKING STIGMAS AND PUTTING THEM INTO BOWL AFGHAN WOMAN PUTTING TRAYS OF SAFFRON INTO MACHINE FOR DRYING PROCESS AFGHAN WOMAN SORTING SAFFRON AFGHAN WOMAN WEIGHTING SAFFRON AFGHAN WOMAN PUTTING SAFFRON INTO JARS VARIOUS OF AFGHAN WOMAN STICKING LABEL ONTO SAFFRON JARS KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (NOVEMBER 22, 2016) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF SANDWICH-FASTFOOD RESTAURANT IN KABUL, WHICH SERVES SAFFRON TEA USING SAFFRON FROM HERAT PROVINCE WAITER TAKING SAFFRON FROM HERAT PROVINCE OUT OF JAR TO PUT IN TEAPOT WATER BEING POURED INTO TEAPOT CONTAINING SAFFRON WAITER POURING SAFFRON TEA INTO GLASS WAITER SERVING CUSTOMERS, THREE UNIVERSITY STUDENTS, SAFFRON TEA CUSTOMER POURING SAFFRON TEA (SOUNDBITE) (Dari) UNIVERSITY STUDENT IN KABUL, TAWAB MOHAQIQ, SAYING: "Before going to my class, I come to this restaurant to drink saffron tea so I can attend my class with a relaxed mind, because saffron is a herb which gives humans a feeling of relaxation." WAITING WORKING IN RESTAURANT (SOUNDBITE) (Dari) OWNER OF SANDWICH-FASTFOOD RESTAURANT, WHICH SERVES SAFFRON TEA USING SAFFRON FROM HERAT PROVINCE, FARHAD MAJIDI, SAYING: "We use our (Afghanistan's) own saffron in our restaurant which is from Herat province, and everyone knows about the quality of the Herat saffron which is very famous not only in Afghanistan but across the region." VARIOUS OF CUSTOMERS DRINKING SAFFRON TEA
- Embargoed: 8th December 2016 06:11
- Keywords: jobs employment Saffron Afghanistan women poppy farmers agriculture Herat opium Saffron tea opportunities economy
- Location: KARUKH AND HERAT CITY, HERAT PROVINCE / KABUL, AFGHANISTAN
- City: KARUKH AND HERAT CITY, HERAT PROVINCE / KABUL, AFGHANISTAN
- Country: Afghanistan
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA00159NZ58N
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: It is early morning in a saffron field outside the western Afghan city of Herat and dozens of women are harvesting the delicate purple flowers, working quickly to gather as many as they can before the sun gets too hot.
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, selling for as much as $1,200-$1,800 a kilogram, and has long been seen as an alternative crop to opium poppies for poor farmers in a country struggling with the legacy of decades of war and lawlessness.
So far, it has had little impact on the opium trade which the United Nations estimates is worth some $3 billion a year in Afghanistan, source of most of the world's heroin, which is derived from opium.
Even so, the Afghan saffron industry has grown and is establishing a reputation for quality in a market still dominated by neighbouring Iran, which accounts for almost 90 percent of global production.
"There is a huge demand for Afghan saffron," said Bashir Ahmad Rashidi, head of the Ariana Saffron Company, which exports to countries from France to Turkey, India and the United States.
Just as importantly in a country whose war-shattered economy cannot provide enough jobs for its people, it offers paid work for women whose employment opportunities are otherwise limited by social conventions that restrict contact outside the home.
"If the government provides saffron seeds to the farmers, this will help the farmers increase saffron cultivation, and in the meantime there will be more job opportunities for women," said Khanum Rassoli, who leads a team picking flowers for Ariana Saffron. "All of the saffron workers are women".
One farmer, Gul Ahmad, who tends to the Saffron fields for Ariana, said that with more help, the industry will develop further.
"I ask all of the farmers to increase saffron cultivation and encourage young people to take up this profession so we can build and develop our country through this business," said Ahmad, who earns a $160 monthly salary.
Known to have been cultivated in what is now Afghanistan at least 2,000 years ago, saffron is a crop well suited to the dry climate, heavily labour intensive but requiring little sophisticated machinery or capital.
The harvest is a tricky operation that begins in October and lasts just three weeks before the delicate flowers begin to die. Workers pick about 10 kg of flowers a day, earning some 25 afghani ($0.38) per kilo.
Once the flowers are picked, tiny orange stigmas are separated from the petals by hand for drying with about 450,000 stigmas needed to produce just one kilogram of the sharp and fragrant spice, used for seasoning and colouring in cuisines from southern Europe to South Asia.
Back in the capital Kabul, an Afghan waiter prepares a pot of tea using Afghan saffron from Herat for a group of university students.
"We use our (Afghanistan's) own saffron in our restaurant which is from Herat province," said Farhad Majidi, the owner of the restaurant. "Everyone knows about the quality of the Herat saffron which is very famous not only in Afghanistan but across the region."
Afghanistan produces around 4 tons a year, a figure dwarfed by the more than 200 tons Iran produces but it is a rare bright spot in an economy struggling to get to its feet.
The industry was revived by refugees returning from Iran in the 1990s and much work has gone into establishing Afghan saffron as an international brand.
There are still challenges though; competition from Iran is fierce, and opium far and away remains the country's biggest export.
However the World Bank estimates more than 6,000 farmers in Herat already produce saffron and the latest U.N. figures indicate that opium cultivation decreased in both Herat and neighbouring Farah province last year.
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