Could world’s most expensive spice be answer to search for alternative to poppy cultivation?
By Farooq Faizi in Heart (ARR No. 322, 19-June-09) Abdul Samad has given up growing poppy. The farmer from Gulmir, a village in Pashtun Zarghon district of Herat province, has happily switched to saffron. “I always felt sinful when I was growing poppy,” he said. “The money brought me no joy, and did not allow me to change my life.” In 2007, Afghanistan was supplying more than 90 per cent of the world’s opium poppy, the raw material for heroin. Abdul Samad grew the illegal crop for five years until a new government programme helped him make the switch to saffron, the world’s most expensive spice. “I make more money than I used to,” he said. “With poppy, I got between 400 and 600 US dollars for each jerib of land. Now I make more than 5,000 dollars.” A jerib is approximately half an acre. Saffron is prized for its taste and colour, and is used in food and dyes. People in Herat use it to brew tea when they can afford it. A small knot of the substance weighing barely five grammes costs clo