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Iran’s Saffron Smuggling Escalates

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The Vice President of Iran’s National Saffron Council revealed that an estimated 10 tons of saffron are smuggled out of Iran each month due to export complications.

Speaking to ISNA news agency, Gholamreza Miri highlighted that sanctions and domestic issues have hindered the ability to manage saffron exports effectively.

Direct saffron exports to key markets like the United States and Saudi Arabia are currently unfeasible due to sanctions. Consequently, Iranian saffron is being rerouted through countries like Afghanistan, the UAE, and Spain before reaching the global market.

“To export saffron to China and India, we must pay 38 percent and 14 percent tariffs respectively, which makes it not cost-effective for exporters, thus increasing the finished cost. As a result, some buyers prefer to purchase saffron from Afghan traders or smugglers,” he said.

Farshid Manuchehri, Secretary of Iran’s National Saffron Council, reported that Afghanistan had purchased 40 tons of Iranian saffron last year, only to resell it in Iran’s target markets at higher prices, branding it as Afghan-produced.

Miri also noted in January that most of Iran’s saffron is smuggled to Afghanistan and packed in Spain.

Miri said that high customs duties and embargoes are among the factors for trafficking with almost half of the value of Iran’s annual saffron production ending up in the pockets of smugglers.

The illegal trade is exacerbated by extreme weather conditions that have halved saffron production in Iran, the world’s primary supplier of the spice. Climate change has devastated areas once thriving with saffron cultivation, impacting local economies and global supply chains.