Feature: Afghan Saffron Harvesters Struggle to Earn Money Amid U.S. Sanctions

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Walking on his saffron farms in west Afghanistan’s Herat province, local businessman Abdul Shakor Ehrari said the U.S.-imposed sanctions on Afghanistan have undermined the export of saffron, a cash cow for locals, as the exporters cannot receive money from their clients via the banking system.

“The main problem that we are facing is money transaction via the banking system due to sanctions, and we cannot receive money from our customers through the bank,” Ehrari told Xinhua recently.

Nevertheless, the businessman said, “Anyhow, the condition for exports in the bazaar is easy, and we can easily export our products outside the country.”

Following the withdrawal of the U.S.-led forces from Afghanistan, Kabul’s assets worth more than 9 billion U.S. dollars were frozen by the United States as part of its sanctions on the new rulers of impoverished Afghanistan.

To further mount pressure on the Taliban-run administration, U.S. President Joe Biden signed a decree in February last year, allowing the allocation of 3.5 billion dollars from the frozen Afghan assets to the families of the 9/11 terror attack victims.

Holding Afghanistan’s assets in U.S. banks has worsened the economic problems of the already impoverished country and undermined its banking system.

However, Ehrari was happy over the expansion of saffron farming in his home province Herat, saying the planting area of the precious plants has increased.

“The saffron cultivation has increased from one hectare in the past to five hectares this year. The saffron plantation has increased about 30 percent,” Ehrari, who is also the head of the committee of Saffron National Union Exports, told Xinhua.

Afghanistan’s saffron is popular in the world, and the country exports it to several countries, including China and India, annually.

The post-war country, according to its agricultural authorities, produced 21 tonnes of saffron in the last harvest season, and those involved in the business expect to see a double harvest of the product in this harvest season.

Saffron plantations will also provide job opportunities for women in Herat province.

“Since the crisis of unemployment is high, particularly for women, it is a good opportunity for women to work for 20 or 25 days on saffron fields to collect saffron flowers and do processing and drying work,” Ehrari said.

Mursal, an Afghan girl working on the saffron farm, said, “I clean flowers to obtain saffron.”

“I come to work on saffron farms to earn money and support myself and my family,” Mursal, wearing a red scarf and a mask to cover her face, told Xinhua.

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