HERAT CITY (Pajhwok): With the eighth Saffron Flower Festival around the corner in western Herat province, saffron businessmen say the government should provide them with more facilities in exporting their products to foreign countries and in obtaining visas.
According to them, Herat’s saffron has a special reputation in the markets of regional countries and the government should support saffron growers and its export, create necessary facilities for businessmen in obtaining visas of foreign countries to export the spice.
A saffron producing company head Nasir Ahmad Nabil told Pajhwok Afghan News saffron prices had considerably increased compared to previous years, but still saffron growers needed government’s support.
Nabil said annual saffron exhibitions were aimed at supporting saffron production in Herat province and to further institutionalize the position and value of Herat saffron.
Saffron producers have promoted Herat saffron into an international brand so the government must provide them more facilities for marketing.
The non-recognition of the government has doubled problems in exporting saffron to international markets and the Afghanistan Chamber and Commerce and Investment (ACCI) must be in contact with neighbouring countries to ensure importers are provided facilities.
Pashtun Zarghun Saffron Company head Shafiqa Ataee said saffron sales had plunged compared to previous years, but its prices had increased relatively.
She said a kilogram of saffron was sold for 65,000 and 70,000 afs last year, but the same quantity was currently sold for 85,000 afs.
She said women had different entrepreneurship capabilities, but they needed government’s backing, Ataee said.
Ataee has been in the saffron business since many years and her business has improved significantly. She also urged the government to take measures in support of female entrepreneurs.
Saffron growers union president Bashir Ahmad Rashidi confirmed the statements of saffron importers and said to some extent, the government was supporting them in exporting and marketing saffron.
“But this support is not enough and the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Foreign Affairs must support them to export their products into international markets”.
He said that Afghanistan was an agricultural country and its agricultural products especially saffron needed to be supported.
Herat Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Department also reports an increase in saffron production, but says recent drought luckily did not leave any negative impact on the crop’s production.
Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation director Maulvi Pir Mohammad Halimi said 20 tonnes of saffron was produced this year and 30 tonnes of saffron production was expected in the upcoming year.
The Agriculture Department in coordination with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce is committed to supporting saffron producers and saffron businessmen in exporting the product to other markets, Halimi added.
The saffron of Herat is very desirable for consumers in regional countries for its high quality and this product is unique to consumers.
Only three days are left to the eighth festival of saffron flower, in which provincial officials, businesspeople and visitors will participate.
Herat ACCI office executive director Mohammad Amin Yousuf said 21,864 kilograms of saffron was exported to foreign countries during the past eight months.
He added so far this year Afghanistan exported saffron worth over $21 million to some Gulf states and India.