Saffron is a spice known for thousands of years, especially in the Middle East, India, and Southern Europe. It is the red-colored stigma of the Crocus sativa plant, the flower developing from a bulb or "corm" that grows in dry climates with a sharp cold spell.
The flowers are harvested the pistil removed and the red part of the stigmas sorted from yellow, dried and packaged. It's a simple process and undertaken usually by small farms or trading companies in the main producing countries of Iran (90%) of the world's production, India (Kashmir) and Afghanistan.
Traditionally Spain was the main grower, and Spain has maintained a hold on the re-processing, branding and packaging trade. This adds thousands of dollars to the farm-gate value of the product and has led to an industry that has largely stuck to traditional uses of the spice in cuisine (the iconic Spanish "paella" is an example).
However, saffron has qualities that go beyond the kitchen. In particular, it has a therapeutic effect on illnesses ranging from anxiety and depression to Alzheimer's and Pre-menstrual stress (PMS). Its chemical components not only have taste, but smell and coloring and saffron can be used in health, personal care, perfumes as well as food.
The rest of this page illustrates aspects of the saffron industry based on work undertaken by us for USAID in Afghanistan under the 'Women in the Economy Program' funded by USAID and implemented by Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI).
Saffron is a great source of active ingredients for health and wellness.
For a full slideshow, click on the photo or here to download
We are working with Precisely Ltd in Thailand on market and product development for saffron.
We have lots more information on saffron, on its markets, standards, and the structure of the industry. If you would like to know more, please contact Seiya Bastin at