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Saffron is more expensive than before due to climate change

Saffron is more expensive than before due to climate change

Even in the world of spices, saffron is the most prominent. And real saffron can cost more than INR 350,000, or $ 4,400 per kilogram. Used for thousands of years as a spice, as a colourant and as a medicinal element, more than 150 flowers are needed to make a single gram of saffron.

Kashmiri saffron is the most fragrant spice in the world. 90% of the world’s saffron is produced in Iran, but the fibres of the Kashmiri are thicker and more aromatic, which significantly increases its value. Kashmiri saffron is very whimsical, but 35 years ago the harvest was so large that it took farmers up to six to seven months to harvest and pack the valuable flowers known as “saffron”.

But the finest – and most expensive – saffron in the world comes from Kashmir Valley. It can be sold for more than 4,500 dollars per kilo. (As expensive as it is, the price of Kashmir saffron is likely to get even more expensive in the future, thanks to climate change).

In recent years, the price of Indian saffron has soared on the international market, a kilo of Indian saffron is now available for Rs 3.25 lakh, after jumping from Rs 2.5 lakh per kg a few months ago.

Saffron cultivation in Kashmir a risky business

High temperatures, droughts and long periods of extreme heat have made saffron cultivation in Kashmir a risky business, prompting farmers to sell large amounts of their land to property developers. Between 2017 and 2018, saffron production in Kashmir decreased by almost 70%. But it has picked up slightly in subsequent years, thanks to the Indian government’s National Saffron Mission, which was founded to help save the struggling saffron industry.

To produce just one kilo of saffron, 40 hours of hard manual labour are necessary. Credit: Mehdi Torabi/Unsplash

The crocus flower is extremely sensitive to weather conditions. A prolonged drought, rain or snow during the harvest period can have a significant, direct and negative impact on the crop. Resulting in lower productivity.

In addition, the weather fluctuations that occurred in Kashmir during this year’s (2021) harvest season had a significant impact, resulting in a 40% decrease in the productivity rate this year, compared to previous years, according to statistics.

Saffron, known as red gold, can cost up to $5,000 per kilogram | Credit: Syed F Hashemi/Unsplash

Climate change main reason for high increase

Saffron prices show no signs of slowing down despite expectations of a good harvest this season. Saffron has become 15 per cent more expensive in the last month, mainly due to smaller acreage and crop damage in Kashmir that hit supplies of the prized purple flower.

In recent years, unseasonable snowfall in the region has damaged 30 per cent of his harvest. Farmers have been suffering for the last few years and this year again the harvest has been damaged due to snowfall,” said Abdul Majid Wani, president of the Saffron Farmers Association. “We expect prices to go up.”

Saffron production has decreased | Credit: Lorenzo Lamonica/Unsplash

Since 2013 the price of saffron has continually increased. In 2013, Prices are around Rs 1.15 lakh per kg and in 2012 price of Rs 45,000, an increase of more than 150 per cent due to a drop in production in India and Iran. Now the price of saffron is more than 4 lakh due to the decline in the production of saffron.

Weather conditions are the main reason for the sharp increase in the price of saffron. The crocus flower is extremely sensitive to weather conditions. A prolonged drought, rain or snow during the harvest period can have a significant, direct and negative impact on the crop. Resulting in lower productivity

Decreased by 65% in 20 years

According to the Kashmir Department of Agriculture, Kashmir’s saffron production has decreased by 65% in the last two decades, from 16 metric tons to 5.6 metric tons.

In the last 10 years, low yields have become a deterrent for farmers and many of them have already switched to other high-yielding crops such as apples and walnuts.

The saffron cultivation area has shrunk at a rapid rate from about 5,707 hectares in 1996 to 3,875 hectares in 2010-11.

In 1997, about 16 tons of saffron were produced here. Due to severe drought in the early 2000s, the harvest fell to 0.3 tons. For 13 years, the yield increased to 9 tons per year, but in 2012 there was a flood and a lot of nutrients were washed out of the soil. Farmers say that the bulbs simply cannot grow on the affected soil. Now, the harvest was less than 10%.

Why Saffron is so expensive?

In the world of spices, there is one that stands out not only for its flavour but above all for its price. Saffron, known as red gold, can cost up to $5,000 per kilogram. But why is it so expensive?

  • Among other factors, it must be taken into account that more than 150 flowers are needed to obtain just one gram of saffron. And the harvest has to be done by hand. No machine can do the delicate work required to obtain the precious red threads.
  • Saffron (crocus sativus l.) is a perennial herb that belongs to the Iris Iridaceae family and I knew it for its distinctive flavour, aroma and colour.
The cultivation of the plant is also not easy Credit: Mohammad Amiri/Unsplash
  • To produce just one kilo of saffron, 40 hours of hard manual labour are necessary. In the process, you must work very carefully to avoid damaging the filaments that will later be used in the kitchen.
  • The saffron threads, as we see them, are the stigmas found in the center of the crocus sativus, a purple flower. Interestingly, there are only three yellow-orange stigmas on each flower, which means that it takes a lot of flowers to make a little saffron.
  • In addition, the cultivation of the plant is also not easy. The plant, whose scientific name is Crocus sativus, needs manual care throughout the year, which will be crucial when harvesting the filaments.
Extreme heat have made saffron cultivation in Kashmir a risky business | Credit: Benyamin Bohlouli/ Unsplash
  • The size of the flowers will depend on the rain that falls in the weeks before harvest. If it is abundant, they will be bigger and more saffron will be obtained. If too few waterfalls, production will be affected.
  • Saffron threads, as we see them are the stigmas found in the centre of the crocus sativus, a purple flower. Interestingly, there are only three orange-yellow stigmas in each flower, which means it takes a lot of flowers to make a little bit of saffron.
  • The small amount of saffron spice per plant, along with the fact that harvesting must be done manually
  • And once the crop starts to bloom, the pickers have to work fast to make sure they harvest everything. Almost all planted crocuses can flower in a single week of the year. And to maintain quality, it is best to pick the flowers first thing in the morning.

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