Monday, 09 December, 2019

The Nuclear Deal Clears the Way for Iranian Saffron in the West

By:  Alex Swerdloff, Munchies

Just this month, the nuclear deal between Iran and six of the world powers—the US, UK, France, China, Russia, and Germany—was implemented. As a result, various sanctions have been lifted. Most people think about the sanction against oil imports from Iran when they think about the deal—those sanctions had largely crippled Iran’s economy. But one other lesser-known benefit of the nuclear deal is that Iran will once again be free to export a coveted spice to the Western world. We’re talking about saffron.

Next week, the first shipment of Iranian saffron will be coming to the US. The announcement was made by the head of Iran’s Saffron Exports Development Fund.

That’s pretty exciting for us here in the States because not only does Iran account for roughly 90 to 95 percent of the world’s saffron production, it arguably has some of the best. Hopefully, we’ll soon be basking in an unprecedented saffron renaissance—one less marred by inferior or counterfeit spice.

Saffron is considered to be the world’s most expensive spice—a pound can cost more than $1,500—and the sanctions that took Iranian saffron largely off the plates of many Western countries certainly didn’t help keep prices out of the stratosphere.

But through some loopholes, there was some Iranian saffron that made its way through the sanctions into the Western world.

While the sanctions were in place, countries like the United Arab Emirates, India, and even Spain were able to buy limited amounts of saffron from Iran. These countries then acted as middlemen, importing the saffron they could manage to get, repackaging it under their own domestic brand labels, and re-selling it on the global market.

The spice is very expensive to harvest because the delicate red strands must be hand-picked. It takes over 18,000 strands of saffron to make up a single kilogram of the spice. That’s hundreds of thousands of flowers needing to be individually handled.

There’s simply no denying Iran’s position in the global saffron market.

But now we can all get saffron straight from the source. “After the removal of sanctions on Tehran, European countries like Spain intend to import directly our saffron”, Mohammad Javad Rezaie told ISNA news agency. “While during the sanctions period, export of the red gold was limited and fell dramatically due to the banking restrictions that made financial transactions more difficult.”

Rezaie said that this first shipment of saffron to the US is for 20 kilograms of the leggy, bright-red spice. He said that the Iranian saffron market could enjoy a boost of 40 percent thanks to the end of the sanctions.

It has been 15 years since Iranian saffron was available in the US. But now it’s time to crack open the cookbooks and reach for the red gold. You’ll finally be able to buy it straight from the source: Iran.

Image: Amin Khosroshahi, ISNA

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