EghtesadOnline: A total of 17,810 tons of different types of spices worth $94.56 million were exported from Iran to 43 countries during the first five months of the current Iranian year (March 20-Aug. 21), according to the spokesperson of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration.
“With 75 tons worth $66.47 million, saffron was the main spice exported during the period [in terms of value], accounting for 0.42% and 70% of the total tonnage and value of the sum respectively. Other types of spices exported from Iran included turmeric, cumin, coriander seeds, pepper, cardamom and savory seeds,” Rouhollah Latifi was also quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency.
The official noted that these consignments were mainly shipped to Kuwait, Australia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, the UAE, the UK, Indonesia, Italy, Turkey, Canada, Qatar, India, France, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands.
“A total of 15,442 tons of different spices worth $28.37 million were imported into Iran from 11 countries during the same five-month period. The main imported spice was ginger, which accounted for close to $5.21 million of the total sum, as well as cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, clove, cardamom and turmeric,” he said.
Iran imported spices from India, the UAE, Austria, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, China, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Vietnam and Turkey.
Iran Accounts for 94% of Global Saffron Output
According to Latifi, Iran accounts for 94% of global saffron production.
"Last [Iranian] year [March 2019-20], some 500 tons of the crop were harvested, 80% of which were exported,” he said.
According to Gholamreza Miri, the deputy head of National Saffron Council, Iran exported 251 tons of saffron during the last fiscal year (ended March 19, 2020).
“Iran’s saffron export destinations are struggling with the novel coronavirus just like we are. The international markets are in doldrums and demand for this Persian delicacy has fallen. As a result, saffron prices have dropped as well,” he said.
“We are hoping that after the pandemic is over, markets return to business and the decline in exports experienced so far this year could be compensated.”
The lion’s share of Iranian saffron is exported by air.
“Land under saffron cultivation has increased in Iran,” Miri said, adding that the crop is being cultivated in 23 provinces across the country this year.
“Due to favorable weather and high precipitation levels, an ample harvest is on the horizon,” he said.
The saffron industry in Iran has created 200,000 jobs along the pre-harvest, harvest, post-harvest, processing, sorting and packaging chain. The livelihoods of these people, farmers in particular, depend largely on exports.
Deputy Agriculture Minister Ali Tahmasebi said Iran’s area under saffron cultivation is 20 times bigger than the total land dedicated to growing saffron in the whole world, adding that Iran is annually increasing the area by 5,000 hectares.
Tahmasebi said planting saffron is no longer restricted to the three provinces of North Khorasan, South Khorasan and Khorasan Razavi.
“Farmers now also harvest saffron in various parts of the country, including Chaharmahal-Bakhtiari Province, a cold and mountainous region in central Iran, as well as in Khuzestan, a southern province known for its hot and humid climate,” he said.
Per capita consumption of saffron in Iran stands at 1 gram. Annually, 80 tons of saffron are consumed domestically.
Iran is also the world’s top caraway producer.
People use the caraway oil, fruit and seeds as a spice and medicine.
In foods, caraway is used as a cooking spice, while in manufacturing, caraway oil is used to flavor medications. It is also commonly used as a fragrance in toothpaste, soap and cosmetics.