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Purpose Driven: Afghani Saffron (Rumi Spice)

Afghan saffron

Frontier Co-op Saffron is sourced from Rumi Spice, a business formed by U.S. military veterans who served in Afghanistan and went back to help the farmers they had met develop saffron as a cash crop — providing impoverished rural Afghan farmers with a viable new source of income.

People are often surprised to learn that the best saffron in the world comes from Afghanistan — much of it goes through middlemen in Iran (also a big saffron producer) or Spain and is sold as "Spanish" saffron.

The values and commitment of the veterans behind Rumi Spice are uplifting. Started by a team of US military veterans and a lawyer who worked for the Afghan Rural Enterprise Development Program, Rumi sources saffron from local Afghan farms to catalyze rural economic development.

Rumi employs more than 300 women to hand-harvest the delicate crimson stigmas of the flowers and their farmers earned seven to eight times the national average. Committed to empowering Afghan women and bolstering Afghanistan's economy, Rumi reinvests back into the country’s agricultural and manufacturing infrastructure.

As we convert all of our saffron in both Frontier Co-op and Simply Organic brands to Rumi Spice saffron, it will double the volume Rumi buys from its Afghan farmers. This growth of the saffron industry not only helps farmers and the women providing direct labor, it touches every member of the villages in a country where over 80% of the population is reliant on the rural agricultural economy.

Saffron is one of the most prized spices in the world. It comes from the interior of the amethyst-colored saffron crocus and must be hand-harvested due to its fragility. The flowers are taken from the field in the early morning as soon as they open and then transported to a facility where the three stigmas (attached to the crocus by yellow filaments called styles) are hand-separated from the blossoms. It takes 450,000 stigmas (or 150,000 blossoms) to make a kilogram of saffron.

With hot, dry winds over semi-arid lands, Afghanistan’s growing region is ideal for growing saffron. In 2016, the International Taste and Quality Institute of Brussels awarded Afghan saffron 1st place out of 30 competing regions. Rumi saffron is tested for crocin content according to international standards — the results show that their Afghan farmers are producing some of the world’s best saffron.

We’re proud to carry this top-quality saffron — and proud to welcome Rumi Spice as a Well Earth partner. We provided a $25,000 grant in 2017 to help this socially responsible business grow.