Monday, December 13, 2004

Iran giving stiff challenge to Kashmir's saffron farmers

Iran giving stiff challenge to Kashmir's saffron farmers: "Iran giving stiff challenge to Kashmir's saffron ers:
[Business India]: Pampore, Dec 13 : Kashmir's saffron farmers no longer have a monoply over the trade, as they are facing stiff competition from their counterparts in Iran.

The crux of this competition lies in Iran taking the initiative to introduce modern farming techniques, good packaging and moderate pricing. Farmers in Kashmir are now complaining that it is difficult for them to break even in terms of costs. "This year the price of flowers is Rs.200 to Rs.250 per kg. It was Rs.500 four years back.The production has come down, it is also less in demand in the market, and whatever we invest, even that amount does not come back," said G M Pampori, a farmer.

"They are having problems as the farmers are facing tough problems from Iran," he added. Iran is the world's top producer of the spice. It supplies more than 80 percent of the world's demand with a plantation area of about 36,724 to 41,325 hectares and an annual production of 150 to 170 tons.

Due to its diverse climate and fertile soil, Iran's agriculture products are rated among the best in the world with saffron being no exception. While saffron is planted in many regions of the country, including the southeast, Khorasan province in the northeast has the highest production share. Vast regions in Khorasan province have managed to achieve an excellent position on the production and export of saffron over the years, to the extent that some 90 percent of saffron production in Iran is obtained from this area. The Ghaenat region is well known for its quality saffron.

Iran's saffron production has in the past decade been increasing steadily, most of which is exported overseas, mostly to the United Arab Emirates, Spain, Japan, Turkmenistan, France, Italy and even the US.

The number of countries importing Iran's quality saffron is increasing, While Iran's major markets are places like US and Japan, Indian saffron is exported to the UK, Spain, Brazil and several Asian countries.

Farmers said modern techniques make Iranian saffron more competitive in the world market. "First of all the management is wrong. Crop management practices are not followed at all," said Mohammud Hussain Shah, the Assistant Director, Agricultural Research University.

At Rs.5000 a pound, saffron is the world's most expensive spice. The delicate flowers are harvested only in mid-autumn. The saffron flowers begin to grow after the first rains and the blooming period is usually mid-October.

Kashmir's cool climate and rich soil with excellent drainage and organic content make the location an ideal thriving ground for this spice but a lapse in any one of the conditions can spoil the entire crop.

The area under saffron farming in the state has gone up from 4000 hectares in early 90s to 5000 in 2002.Saffron derives its name from the Arabic word Zafran meaning "be yellow".

It is desired all over the world for its aroma, color and aphrodisiac properties. What make it so rare is that Saffron filaments, or threads, are of the saffron flower, "Crocus Sativus Linneaus". Each flower contains only three tigmas, it takes 75,000 crocus flowers to get one kg of saffron.

Exports of spices have registered substantial growth during the last one decade. It has increased from 109636 tonnes valued 135 million dollars in 1990-91 to 235611 tonnes valued 472 million dollars in 1999-2000.

During the year 2002-03, the spices export quantity touched an all-time high of 264107 tonnes. Total exports during April- September 2004 stood at 1,82,300 tonnes valued at Rs 1,100.41 crore as against 1,04,860 tonnes worth Rs 842.16 crore in the same period a year ago. In dollar terms, it was an estimated 415 million dollars.

The decline was mainly due to decline in export of Mint Products and also because of low volume of pepper exports coupled with low unit value realization.

India still commands a formidable position in the World Spice Trade with 46 percent share in Volume and 27 per cent in Value. (ANI)"

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