Saffron has been the most costly spice in the world for years.

Saffron has been the most expensive and sought-after spice in the world for many years. Now, a farmer in the Northern Cape is of the opinion that this could be the next big thing for local producers. 

The farmer has said that one kilogram of saffron can easily sell for R200 000. It does, however, take about 150 000 crocus sativus flowers to grow one kilogram of saffron. It is also a very labour intensive crop as each flower must be threaded by hand to get the actual saffron removed from it. Further to this, one flower only produces about three threads of saffron.

At the moment, the leading producer of saffron is Iran. The demand for the spice, however, outweighs the limited supply by a longshot. Saffron is used by cooks and chefs as a spice, but it is also used by companies to produce medicines, dyes and cigarettes. This indicates that saffron also has a potential largescale B2B market.

In terms of quality, the South African version of saffron doesn’t stand back from those grown elsewhere. In terms of potential yields, it is estimated that peak production could see about 1 – 5kg of saffron per hectare. 

For South African farmers, the crop is even more attractive because it doesn’t need a lot of water to grow. In fact, it only needs about 250mm – 300mm of irrigation and can withstand most weather conditions.

Although Saffron is probably best suited for growing in the Karoo, it is also being tested in parts of KwaZulu-Natal.