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FOOD & TRAVEL

Treasured Greek Spice Saffron Heading for China’s Market

May 1, 2019

One of Greece’s most precious – and expensive – delicacies, its world-renowned spice saffron, will start being exported to China’s vast market by the end of May, as business and trade ties between the countries continue to grow.

The President of the Kozani Saffron Producers Cooperative, Nikos Patsiouras, speaking to Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) said the so-called “red gold,” – for its color and cost, about 128 euros ($143.84) per kilo – or nearly $66 a pound – would be shipped.

This new saffron trade conduit was agreed during the recent visit of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to Beijing, said Patsiouras, and the agreement is being finalized, opening the Greek treasure to hundreds of millions of potential buyers.

He said China decided to go ahead with the importing Kozani saffron following a 2 ½-year negotiation and visit by Chinese authorities to the saffron cooperative.

“We are the first in Greece to export saffron to China,” said Patsiouras, adding that, “We have all the necessary documents and our product meets all specifications as per Chinese legislation.”
Shipping of Kozani saffron to China will begin as soon as all the documents are signed, he said, adding that, this “entire process of getting closer to the Chinese market was a marathon in and of itself.”

As has happened with yogurt, olive oil and other products made in Greece and among the world’s best, saffron hasn’t been significantly pushed as an export product, ceding the market to the product from Spain, Iran – which has 70 percent of it – and Kashmir.

It’s the world’s most expensive commodity because of the volume it takes to produce a large quantity. It is harvested by hand from the stigma of the saffron crocus, which only blooms for a short time during the fall months.

Saffron is either available in powdered form, which is ready to use, or threads. If you purchase threads, you will need to prepare them before use. For a recipe that serves 4 to 6 people, you will need anywhere from 14 to 16 threads, said the site Foodall.

Patsiouras said Greek saffron is superior to similar products available in the Chinese market, and complies with European Union standards, as Chinese officials who visited the cooperative’s facilities were told.

He said saffron is being farmed in an area as large as 0.55 hectares (1.36 acres) but said the growers are prepared to expand to meet Chinese demands if needed. Kozani saffron is currently exported to the rest of Europe, the US, Australia, and more recently Vietnam.

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