EghtesadOnline: Iran exported $570 million worth of medicinal plants during the last fiscal year (ended March 20, 2019) to register an increase of $120 million compared to the year before, an official with the Agriculture Ministry said.
Hossein Zeinali added that 206,000 hectares are under medicinal plant cultivation in Iran, producing 675,000 tons annually, IRNA reported.
He expects the exports to reach $700 million this year (March 2019-20).
Iran is home to about 8,500 species of medicinal herbs, Financial Tribune reported.
According to Zeinali, the area under cultivation of medicinal plants will increase to 280,000 hectares by the fiscal 2021-22.
Saffron Earns Highest Medicinal Plant Export Revenues
Saffron is the main medicinal plant exported from Iran in terms of value.
Iran is the world’s biggest producer of saffron and accounts for more than 90% of global production.
According to Mohsen Ehtesham, the head of National Saffron Council, Iran produces an average of 370 tons of saffron on over 108,000 hectares of land annually and ranks as the world’s top producer of the precious spice.
Saffron is cultivated across 22 provinces in the country. More than two-thirds of Iran's saffron are grown in the northeastern Khorasan Razavi Province.
“With around 84,000 hectares under saffron cultivation, Khorasan Razavi produces more than 290 tons of the spice, while South Khorasan Province produces 54 tons on over 16,000 hectares. The other 20 provinces account for the remaining 32 tons,” Ehtesham was quoted as saying by the news portal of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture.
The saffron industry in Iran, the official said, has created 120,000 jobs across the pre-harvest, harvest, post-harvest, processing, sorting and packaging chain.
“This is a small number compared with our competitive advantage in the field and our leading position in global saffron production,” Ehtesham said.
The National Saffron Council, he added, is planning to increase revenues and value added as well as job opportunities in the field by expanding saffron processing, packaging and branding within the country.
Per capita consumption of saffron in Iran stands at 1 gram. Annually, 80 tons of saffron are consumed domestically.
According to Webmed.com, saffron is used for asthma and cough, as well as an expectorant. It is also used to cure sleep problems (insomnia), cancer, “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), depression, Alzheimer’s disease, fright, shock, hemoptysis, pain, heartburn and dry skin.
In foods, saffron is used as a spice, food coloring and as a flavoring agent.
In manufacturing, saffron extracts are used as fragrance in perfumes.
Dominating 90% of World Market for Damascus Rose
Iran’s is also the world’s number one producer of Damask rose.
Zeinali, who is also the executive manager of National Medicinal Plants Project, said Iran supplies 90% of rosewater in global markets and accounts for 8-10% of rose essence production in the world.
“Iran ranks first in the production of rosewater and Damask rose, and fourth in the production of rose essence,” he was quoted as saying by IRNA.
Noting that the country exported $10 million worth of rose, rosewater and essence last year (March 2018-19), the official said, exports of 194,000 kilograms of Damask rose last year generated $1.4 million.
“About 3.85 million kilograms of rosewater worth $8 million were exported to Persian Gulf littoral states last year,” he noted.
He put the annual export of rose essence from Iran at 186 kilograms worth $689,000.
Iranian farmers added 5,000 hectares for Damask rose production last year. At present, 24,000 hectares of land are currently being used for rose cultivation in the country.
Fars Province has the largest area under rose cultivation whereas the city of Kashan in Isfahan Province is the main hub of rosewater production.
Rosewater is a flavored water made by steeping rose petals in water. Additionally, it is the hydrosol portion of the distillate of rose petals, a byproduct of rose oil production for use in perfumes. It is used to flavor food and tea, as a component in some cosmetic and medical preparations, and for religious purposes throughout Europe and Asia.
According to Mizan Online, Kuwait was the biggest importer of rosewater from Iran last year.
Other major buyers of Iranian rosewater were Germany, Italy, the UAE, Sweden, Japan, Turkey, France, the UK, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Qatar, Austria, Bahrain and Afghanistan.
World No. 1 Caraway Producer
World caraway production is also dominated by Iran. People use its oil, fruit and seeds as medicine.
Some people consume caraway for treating digestive problems, such as heartburn, bloating, loss of appetite and mild spasms of the stomach.
Its seeds are used as a spice in many cuisines.
Caraway oil is also used to help people cough up phlegm, improve control of urination, kill internal bacteria and relieve constipation.
Its oil is used to flavor certain medications. It is also commonly used as an aromatic ingredient in toothpastes, soaps and cosmetics.