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Iranian Saffron Farmers Toil, Afghan Merchants Reap Profits

India and China have set a 30% tariff on saffron imports from Iran. India and China have set a 30% tariff on saffron imports from Iran.

Wholesale Iranian saffron is smuggled to the neighboring country of Afghanistan from where it is exported, at a zero percent tariff, to India and China, while the same countries have set a 30% tariff on saffron imports from Iran, the Iranian Agriculture Ministry’s deputy for horticultural affairs said.

“Although Afghanistan is supported in saffron cultivation by European countries such as the Netherlands as well as India and China, the land allocated for the purpose in that country is inconsiderable and it is produced in different climates, the quality of Afghan saffron cannot compete with that of Iran in terms of color, fragrance or taste,” Mohammad Ali Tahmasebi was also quoted as saying by IRNA.

The official added that Afghanistan’s saffron production is not a threat to us, but reexports of Iranian saffron from that country will damage domestic exports in the long run since it redirects all the profit from Iranian farmers to Afghan merchants.

Recently, Iran’s National Saffron Council voiced concern about the unrestrained smuggling of Iranian saffron bulbs to Afghanistan and China.

“We need to block the illegal outflow of saffron bulbs and support domestic production and exports,” Mehr News Agency quoted the deputy head of the council, Gholamreza Miri, as saying.

Iran exported 54 tons of saffron worth 2,428 billion rials ($68.22 million at market exchange rates) in the five months of the current Iranian year (started March 20). The figures show a 5.8% rise in weight and an 11.3% increase in value compared with last year’s corresponding period, the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration reported.

The UAE, Spain and China were the main customers of this Iranian spice in the five-month period.

Last year (March 2015-16), more than 350 tons of saffron were produced in the country, indicating a 25% rise compared with the previous year, of which about 130 tons were exported.

Iran is the world’s biggest saffron producer and accounts for more than 93% of the global production.

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