After the Taliban crisis impacted Afghanistan’s export of the world’s most expensive spice Saffron, the price of Indian has skyrocketed in the international market.
One kilogram of Indian saffron now costs ₹ 2.25 lakh, shot up from ₹ 1.4 lakh per kilogram in the market just a few months ago.
Saffron a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, is grown in four districts of Jammu and Kashmir valley: Srinagar, Pulwama, and Kishtwar, and Budgam. Pampore in the Pulwama district of Kashmir has earned the name of Kashmir’s ‘saffron town’ for growing the great quality of saffron in the valley.
The Kashmir valley cultivates and produces 12 mt (metric tonnes) of saffron every year, which is used in medicine. food, perfume, and dyes.
‘Saffron producers (in India) are inundated with inquiries from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Belgium, and the Gulf countries,’ said Mohammad Qasim Ghani, joint director, agriculture extension, Kashmir. ‘Prices have risen to ₹ 2.25 lakh per kilogram. The online platform is used for all exports.’
According to Ghani, the National Saffron Mission has increased crop yield to 4.5 kg per hectare, up from 1.8 kg per hectare just a few years ago.
‘Our goal is to increase yield to 7-8 kg per hectare and cultivate an additional 37,000 hectares of saffron,’ Ghani said.
Afghanistan had made significant progress in Saffron cultivation, which began in the country in 2010. Exporting this highly expensive crop to global markets enabled the country to register as the world’s third-largest saffron producer, trailing only India and Iran.
However, the Taliban’s grip over the power in the capital Kabul has hit the country’s exports of many commodities, including saffron.
As per the Saffron local traders in Kashmir, only 10 percent of the saffron grown in the valley is available in the domestic market. Hence, the domestic demand is met by Saffron that comes from Iran and Afghanistan. The Taliban conflict in Afghan has also shot up the prices of Iranian saffron in India.
‘Iranian saffron prices have also increased by ₹ 30,000 per kg in the Indian market since supply from Afghanistan has dried up,’ said Nisar Ahmad Dar, cofounder of Pampore-based Al Ansar Saffron & Dry Fruits. ‘Asafoetida prices have increased by 30%, while figs imported from Afghanistan as dry fruits have increased by ₹ 300 per kg.’ India imports 36,000 tonnes of dry fruits and spices each year.
According to Indian dry fruit importers, Afghanistan has registered a bumper dry fruit production in 2021, and exporters are in regular touch with Indian buyers despite their country’s uncertain situation.
Afghanistan’s dry fruit and spice exports begin in September, just before Diwali and the Indian festive season. This is the time of year when businesses begin to stock up on dry fruits for gifting.
As a signatory to the South Asian Free Trade Agreement, Afghanistan imports enjoy duty concessions in India, with a maximum tariff of 5%. Tariffs on imports from other countries range between 30 and 40%.
‘It is unlikely that the Taliban will impose any restrictions on dry fruit exports to India, as it is a significant source of revenue for the country,’ said Mr. Vijay KB, the president of the Bombay Dry Fruits and Date Merchants Association. ‘We are optimistic that trade with Afghanistan will resume soon.’