Iran Saffron: The Story Behind The Material Worth More Than Gold Itself

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While much is often made of the Middle Eastern conflicts over oil and land, the most valuable commodity in Iran may not be either.

In fact, it's not a precious metal at all, but has a value far beyond gold. What is this mystery item, you ask?

Saffron, and at at a reported $65 per gram, the fibrous product can cost more than gold. A major component of cosmetics, traditional medicine and Iranian cousin, Iran saffron's value in the international market is second-to-none.

With a saffron production system that goes back 3,000 years in Iran, it clear that there is no country worldwide that can compete with the production and trade of what many call "red gold."

However, international sanctions due to the nation's recent nuclear program expansion have slowed trade of the product. As a result, Iran has seen saffron-related trade and business diminish in the U.S., Europe, and Canada. Being locked out of the global banking infrastructure hot not helped, either.

According to Mehrdad Rowhani, CEO of Saffron Rowhani, "We can't use banks. We have to go through private messengers, who are expensive, and deal directly with customers and trust they will pay us. Sometimes they cheat." This circumstance has driven many Iranian companies to revert to a barter economy in which they can exchange goods that will allow them to go around the banking systems.

In spite of recent trade difficulties, Iranian saffron traders have found novel ways to continue business. According to Ali Sheikh, London representative of Iran Hassos Ltd., "Traders are very clever and when a door is closed they go through the window. None of the traditional items (including pistachios and saffron) remain unsold. The demand is greater than supply."

Whether you are an economist or just a person who enjoys that extra bit of red accent in your food, saffron is not just another color on your plate... It's also the color of a priceless empire.

(Information courtesy CNN.com.)