The minister, Asadullah Zamir, said at a press conference that Saffron cultivated areas have been increased by 250 percent – now totaling 2,811 hectares of land.
The coverage areas for the past 15 years were 1,020 hectares.
This year alone 1,791 hectares of new land has been cultivated – which demonstrates that Afghan farmers are now producing more legal produce than ever, said Zamir.
He said saffron cultivation has expanded to 31 provinces from only one a few years ago.
“With effective management and strong efforts of MAIL, saffron cultivation has been doubled compared to last year - from 1,020 hectares of land last year to 2,811 hectares of land this year,” said Zamir.
The increase in saffron production is a result of continued technical, financial and training support provided by MAIL to Afghan farmers, according to the minister.
He called on all Afghan farmers to grow legal crops instead of poppy and turn the country into a poppy free country.
Not only is this a major economic and agricultural achievement, but this announcement has significant security implications too.
Addressing farmers directly, Zamir said: “By growing legal crop, you will make more money, gain government support and work on your land without any fear from law enforcement agencies.”
The cultivation of saffron will allow the Afghan National Security forces to concentrate their efforts elsewhere and will deprive the enemies of Afghanistan of a major source of revenue.
Government is determined to assist Afghan farmers by providing financial support, machinery, cold storage, seeds, training, and new processing methods all of which will pave the way for Afghan farmers to export their products outside Afghanistan, he said.
The opening of the railway between Afghanistan and China is a clear example of the Afghan government’s commitment to supporting the export of Afghan produce, he added.
“Saffron is one of the products that will be regularly exported to China using this railway and will benefit from decreased transportation costs and faster supply chains.”
In May, a senior Afghan delegation visited China to sign six agreements and MOUs to boost business and diplomatic relationship between the two countries.
One of these agreements was signed on the production and export of Afghan saffron to China.
Based on this agreement, China will support Afghan saffron production and will facilitate its export to China.
It is believed that China, having the biggest population in the world, is a key market for Afghan saffron.
Afghan farmers began growing saffron in 2001 and this year, Afghan farmers produced almost six metric tons of saffron.
Afghanistan’s saffron was also named the best saffron in the world for a third time. The International Taste and Quality Institute Brussels, Belgium awarded the accolade after examining some 300 samples earlier this year.