A sharp drop in the saffron harvest saw prices for the most expensive spice in the world skyrocket
The global market is facing a deficit of saffron due to a poor harvest in Iran, the world’s biggest supplier of the spice, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday, citing local producers and exporters. Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, renowned for its exquisite aroma, distinct flavor, and vibrant hue.
According to the report, this year’s yield in Iran, which supplies more than 90% of the world’s saffron, is expected to be less than half of the 2022 yield.
“Total production is expected to fall to about 170 metric tons from nearly 400 tons [last year],” Ali Shariati-Moghaddam, chief executive of Novin Saffron, a leading Iranian producer and exporter, told the news outlet.
Producers and traders have blamed the poor harvest on changing weather patterns and water shortages. According to Mojtaba Payam-Asgari, head of the Torbat-e Jam saffron exchange, extremely low temperatures last winter followed by a very dry and hot spring and summer had a devastating effect on the crop. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that thousands of wells intended for irrigation went completely dry.
Experts warn that the situation may worsen further due to climate change, which is altering weather patterns.
“Iran is more vulnerable than the global average, especially in arid and semi-arid areas [where saffron is grown]… Rainfall is declining, and evaporation and temperatures are soaring,” Mohammad Darvish, an Iranian environmentalist, told the news outlet.
The price of saffron has doubled since last year, jumping to $1,400 per kilogram on Iran’s domestic market and to $1,800 overseas, according to suppliers. This has already affected Iran’s exports of the spice.
“Many Chinese dealers were shocked by the price surge and left. They’ll have to pay even higher prices if they come back because there’s very little crop and the warehouses are empty,” Payam-Asgari of the Torbat-e Jam exchange warned.
China is the biggest foreign buyer of Iranian saffron, accounting for 45% of total exports. Other major buyers include Arab countries, Spain and Italy, where saffron is used in a variety of dishes.
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