0557 GMT December 14, 2018
EghtesadOnline reported on Sunday that Iran exported 70.8 tons of saffron to 49 countries during the period bringing in nearly $98.35 million.
The top export destination for Iranian saffron was the United Arab Emirates with $31.64 million, followed by China with $20 million, Spain with $16.54 million, Afghanistan with $9.74 million and Vietnam with $8.8 million.
About 236 tons of saffron worth more than $325 million were exported from Iran during the year to March 20, showing a growth of 56 percent compared to the figure for a year earlier.
Experts have long said Iran has to improve marketing and find new customers if it wants to secure a bigger slice of the profits from saffron sales.
Bulk production methods in Iran bring in less than what is paid in countries such as Spain which re-exports the Iranian produce.
Saffron from Spain reportedly sells for €1,400 ($1,861) a kilogram in Europe, but Iranian varieties command a quarter or less that price.
"Countries like Spain, while being a major importer of saffron from our country, are among the largest exporters of this product in the world," said the Head of Agriculture, Water and Food Industries Commission with Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture Kaveh Zargaran in June.
"Our neglect of the market needs has left us losing the packaged saffron market to countries like Spain, and despite our first rank in saffron production and export, bulk exports bring in lower added value," he said.
Iran's position as the lead supplier of the spice is also being undercut by counterfeit business under which genuine saffron from the country is adulterated and resold to the high-end global market, with the UAE and Spain being the prime suspects.
Saffron cultivation and harvest is a painstaking process requiring 200,000 strands of crimson crocus blooms to be gingerly picked in the morning to make one kilo for sale.
Much of the crop produced by villagers are bought at knockdown prices by local arbiters who themselves sell it to foreign buyers in large stocks. This means the bulk of the added-value accrues to foreign intermediaries, while the genuine produce barely reaches the end consumer.
Saffron cultivation has a history of more than 3,000 years in Iran, where the reddish, aromatic substance is used to flavor food and pastries, with further application in medicine and cosmetics.
Iranian researchers have produced saffron extract for suppressing cancer, lowering blood pressure and curing depression.