Red Gold: Saffron from Afghanistan

Published December 13th, 2018 - 08:48 GMT

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Starting before dawn has even broken, Afghanistan's army of saffron pickers shift their way across sun-baked fields to pluck the brightly coloured crocuses that are providing the country's farmers with a new means of income.

Pistil of the flower has for centuries been used in cooking around the world and because of its relatively high price has been dubbed "red gold" by those who rely on its cultivation.

Authorities struggling to wean farmers off the highly profitable opium poppy trade are hoping to use the spice as an attractive alternative. Continue reading below »

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In this photograph, Afghan workers separate saffron threads from harvested flowers at a processing centre in Herat province. 
HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP
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Image 1 of 9:  1 / 9In this photograph, Afghan workers separate saffron threads from harvested flowers at a processing centre in Herat province. HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

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In this photograph, Afghan women harvest saffron flowers in a field on the outskirts of Herat province.
HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP
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Image 2 of 9:  2 / 9In this photograph, Afghan women harvest saffron flowers in a field on the outskirts of Herat province. HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

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In this photograpy, Afghan workers carry harvested saffron flowers in a field on the outskirts of Herat province. 
HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP
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Image 3 of 9:  3 / 9In this photograpy, Afghan workers carry harvested saffron flowers in a field on the outskirts of Herat province. HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

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In this photograph, an Afghan worker sorts harvested saffron flowers in a field on the outskirts of Herat province. 
HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP
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Image 4 of 9:  4 / 9In this photograph, an Afghan worker sorts harvested saffron flowers in a field on the outskirts of Herat province. HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

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In this photograph an Afghan worker sorts harvested saffron flowers in a field on the outskirts of Herat province. 
HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP
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Image 5 of 9:  5 / 9In this photograph an Afghan worker sorts harvested saffron flowers in a field on the outskirts of Herat province. HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

Enlarge
In this photograph, Afghan workers separate saffron threads from harvested flowers at a processing centre in Herat province. 
HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP
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Image 6 of 9:  6 / 9In this photograph, Afghan workers separate saffron threads from harvested flowers at a processing centre in Herat province. HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

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In this photograph, an Afghan worker poses at a processing centre, where saffron threads are separated from harvested flowers, in Herat province. 
HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP
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Image 7 of 9:  7 / 9In this photograph, an Afghan worker poses at a processing centre, where saffron threads are separated from harvested flowers, in Herat province. HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

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Afghan worker spreads separated saffron threads from harvested flowers at a processing centre in Herat province (Twitter)
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Image 8 of 9:  8 / 9Afghan worker spreads separated saffron threads from harvested flowers at a processing centre in Herat province (Twitter)

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Separated saffron threads from harvested flowers  (Twitter)
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Image 9 of 9:  9 / 9Separated saffron threads from harvested flowers (Twitter)

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In this photograph, Afghan workers separate saffron threads from harvested flowers at a processing centre in Herat province. 
HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

Image 1 of 9In this photograph, Afghan workers separate saffron threads from harvested flowers at a processing centre in Herat province. HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

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In this photograph, Afghan women harvest saffron flowers in a field on the outskirts of Herat province.
HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

Image 2 of 9In this photograph, Afghan women harvest saffron flowers in a field on the outskirts of Herat province. HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

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In this photograpy, Afghan workers carry harvested saffron flowers in a field on the outskirts of Herat province. 
HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

Image 3 of 9In this photograpy, Afghan workers carry harvested saffron flowers in a field on the outskirts of Herat province. HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

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In this photograph, an Afghan worker sorts harvested saffron flowers in a field on the outskirts of Herat province. 
HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

Image 4 of 9In this photograph, an Afghan worker sorts harvested saffron flowers in a field on the outskirts of Herat province. HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

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In this photograph an Afghan worker sorts harvested saffron flowers in a field on the outskirts of Herat province. 
HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

Image 5 of 9In this photograph an Afghan worker sorts harvested saffron flowers in a field on the outskirts of Herat province. HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

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In this photograph, Afghan workers separate saffron threads from harvested flowers at a processing centre in Herat province. 
HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

Image 6 of 9In this photograph, Afghan workers separate saffron threads from harvested flowers at a processing centre in Herat province. HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

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In this photograph, an Afghan worker poses at a processing centre, where saffron threads are separated from harvested flowers, in Herat province. 
HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

Image 7 of 9In this photograph, an Afghan worker poses at a processing centre, where saffron threads are separated from harvested flowers, in Herat province. HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

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Afghan worker spreads separated saffron threads from harvested flowers at a processing centre in Herat province (Twitter)

Image 8 of 9Afghan worker spreads separated saffron threads from harvested flowers at a processing centre in Herat province (Twitter)

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Separated saffron threads from harvested flowers  (Twitter)

Image 9 of 9Separated saffron threads from harvested flowers (Twitter)

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Iran remains the world's largest saffron producer, capturing nearly 90 percent of the global market with 400 tonnes annually. Meanwhile, nearly 90 percent of the opium harvested on the planet still comes from Afghanistan.

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