Afghan authorities want to provide farmers with an alternative means of income, other than growing opium, by turning to the world’s most expensive spice.

Saffron production has risen to record levels this year in the country, hitting 13 tons. The official figures showed that saffron cultivation has increased to 6,200 hectares of land in 2018, up 22% on last year.

Red gold: Afghanistan’s booming & blooming saffron may become alternative to opium poppy trade

The delicate pistil of the flower has for centuries been used in various cuisines and in the production of perfumes. Saffron has been dubbed “red gold” by those who rely on its cultivation. It sells for up to $1,500 per kilogram on Western markets.

The harvest is then sent to factories where gloved workers remove the red pistil, made up of the three stigma that, when dried, constitute the spice.

The spice is being exported to 17 countries through new air corridors (mainly to China, India, and the Persian Gulf countries), as well as to the European Union and North America.

Officials are struggling to wean Afghanistan’s farmers off the highly-profitable opium poppy trade. Cultivation of poppy still covers 263,000 hectares in Afghanistan, with nearly 90% of the opium harvested on the planet coming from the Asian country.

RT. com / ABC Flash Point Oil News 2018.

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