EghtesadOnline: A total of 29,000 tons of medicinal and ornamental plants and herbs worth $49 million were exported from Iran during the first quarter of the current Iranian year (March 21-June 21), according to the director general of Agrifood Exports Coordination Bureau of the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran.
"Saffron was the most important exported item, which accounted for 53% of the value of Iran’s total exports, with 52 tons worth $26 million," Mahmood Bazari was also quoted as saying by IRNA.
According to the spokesperson of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration, a total of 324 tons of saffron worth $190 million were exported from Iran to 60 countries in the last fiscal year (March 2020-21), with five countries accounting for 79% of weight and 78% of the value of total shipments.
“Hong Kong with more than 74 tons worth $46.62 million was the biggest customer of Iranian saffron over the period. The country alone accounted for 23% and 24.5% of the total volume and value of the exports respectively,” Rouhollah Latifi was also quoted as saying by IRNA.
Hong Kong was followed by the UAE with 59 tons worth $33.94 million, Spain with 49 tons worth $26.44 million, China with 40 tons worth $22.5 million and Afghanistan with 33 tons worth $19.17 million.
Other export destinations for Iran’s red gold are France, Italy, Australia, Bahrain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK, Canada, Germany, India, Switzerland, Malaysia, Turkey, Iraq, Indonesia, Japan, South Africa, Austria, Poland, Norway, Kenya, Lebanon, the US, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and the Philippines.
Iran is the world’s biggest producer of saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, accounting for about 90% of global production.
The lion’s share of Iranian saffron is exported by air.
The saffron industry has created some 200,000 jobs along the pre-harvest, harvest, post-harvest, processing, sorting and packaging chain. The livelihood of these people, farmers in particular, mainly depends on exports.
According to Deputy Agriculture Minister Ali Tahmasebi, Iran’s area under saffron cultivation exceeds 115,000 hectares, which is 20 times bigger than the total land dedicated to growing saffron in the whole world.
“Iran is annually increasing the area by 5,000 hectares and saffron cultivation is no longer restricted to the three provinces of North Khorasan, South Khorasan and Khorasan Razavi,” he said.
“Farmers now also harvesting 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.”
Per capita consumption of saffron in Iran has been put at 1 gram. Annually, 80 tons of saffron are consumed domestically.
However, Gholamreza Miri, the deputy head of Iran National Saffron Council, says local demand for saffron has dropped by 70% following the outbreak of Covid-19 and a decline in the number of wedding and funeral receptions, adding that saffron is no longer a priority in the food basket of Iranian households.
Saffron, the world's costliest spice by weight, is derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the "saffron crocus". The vivid crimson stigma and styles, called threads, are collected and dried for use mainly as a seasoning and coloring agent in food.
Saffron is widely used in Persian cuisine for its distinct aroma, color and taste.
Q1 tea exports stood at 4,000 tons worth $4 million, registering a 642% and 728% growth in weight and value respectively, year-on-year.
There are currently 28,000 hectares of tea plantations in the country, 22,000 hectares of which bear yields, according to Iran Tea Organization figures.
More than 55,000 farmers earn their living through tea cultivation in Iran’s northern provinces and of Gilan and Mazandaran where the product is considered an economically strategic commodity.
Some 90% of Iran’s tea plantations are located in Gilan Province. Lahijan County in eastern Gilan is known as Iran’s tea production capital.
Iran's Tea Association puts domestic demand for tea at 120,000 tons per year.
The country consumes about 5% of the total annual world tea production. Local tea production meets 30% of the annual domestic demand and the rest is mainly imported from India and Sir Lanka.
Turkey, Germany, China, Japan, Vietnam, Kenya, Poland are other exporters of the product to the country.
Licorice root and extract, cut flowers, flower buds and other ornamental plants were among other exported products in Q1.
Bazari noted that China, the UAE, Spain, Pakistan, Iraq and Germany were the main export destinations.