Saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, could flourish in South Africa, and one local farmer believes it can yield producers up to R200,000kg.
But it’s a painstaking, labor-intensive crop – the stigma of the crocus sativus flower must be carefully removed, and each flower produces only three threads (stigmas) of saffron.
It takes some 150,000 flowers to yield one kilogram of saffron.
The global saffron market is dominated by Iran, and demand far exceeds supplies for the spice, which has distinctive properties to flavour and colour food. It is also used in other products, like medicines, dyes and cigarettes.
Within three years, peak production should deliver between 1kg and 5kg saffron a hectare.
While the sterile flowers are delicate, they only need 250mm to 300m in irrigation, are frost resistant and can withstand temperatures of minus 15 degrees Celsius.