The cultivation and production of saffron have made a considerable rise this year in Herat province, in west of Afghanistan, local officials said, adding that they expect eight tons of processed saffron from farmers this year.
The provincial Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock director Abdul Saboor Rahmani told TOLOnews that Herat farmers said they have cultivated saffron in 3,000 hectares of land in the province.
He said saffron trade has provided job opportunity to at least 18,000 women in the province.
“A large number of farmers have started saffron cultivation this year, even in insecure areas. We expect to reach to eight tons this year,” said Rahmani.
TOLOnews reporter Jawed Ziaratjaee has visited a saffron farm in Herat, established by Faizi Saffron Company, which has provided job opportunity to dozens of women.
The female workers in the company said they work in groups and in different shifts. The women said they separate the saffron plant from its flower.
“I am the only breadwinner of my family. I have five children and I am happy that I work here and the money I earn from here has changed my life,” said Nazak, a worker at the farm.
“Majority of commodities and other goods are imported from other countries to Afghanistan. I am happy that the situation is improving and we should try to become self-reliant,” said Raihana, another worker in the firm.
The women said they do the most of activities required for collecting and packaging saffron in the company.
“Collecting saffron flower is an easy task for women,” Hamida Faiziyan, an employee of Faizi Saffron Company.
Deputy head of the company, Abdul Khaliq Khodadadi, said that at least 200 women are working in the firm, adding that every woman is paid 6,000 to 8,000 AFs as monthly salary.
Head of the company, Sayed Abdul Wahab Qatali, said he is increasing his products and that he wants to change Afghanistan from a drug producer to a saffron producer.
“Poppy cultivation and drugs have been attached to Afghanistan’s name in the world but I hope that by exporting saffron to other countries we could remove this blame from our country,” he said.
A non-governmental organization, Comprehensive Agriculture and Rural Development Facility (CARD-F), has built a big saffron laboratory in Herat which has the capacity to test saffron in 30 different ways. The United Kingdom has funded the construction of the laboratory.
“The only reason that Herat’s saffron was losing its customers in the world markets was the way of packaging and its hygiene, but this laboratory can resolve this problem,” CARD-F’s Herat office manager Hamid Khosrawi said.
Despite the improvements, farmers and factory owners said they are worried about a good market for their products. They called on government to provide more facilities for them.