Why Is Saffron So Expensive? (11 Reasons Why)

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Maisie Hughes

Maisie Hughes is a 20-year veteran of the culinary world. She has worked as a chef in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country, and she currently volunteers her time at local food banks.

Saffron is a crucial spice in many cuisines. Generally, saffron gives a fantastic amount of flavor, color, and aroma to any dish to instantly enhance your recipes.

If you want to buy saffron for your dishes but saw the price, you may be wondering why saffron is so expensive. I did some digging, and here is what I learned!

Why Is Saffron So Expensive?

Saffron is expensive because it’s an extremely time-sensitive and difficult plant to grow. Saffron requires particular conditions to grow and wilts quickly. It takes hundreds of thousands of saffron flowers to create one pound of saffron. Plus, only a limited amount of saffron can be grown while the demand remains high.

Do you want to find out more interesting facts about what affects saffron’s price? I compiled a list of reasons below, so keep reading!

1. Saffron Requires Many Stigmas

Firstly, one of the main reasons that saffron is expensive is that you need a lot of stigmas to make saffron.

With that, stigmas are the small thread-like inside the saffron flower where pollen germinates.

Generally, it will take roughly 170,000-200,000 stigmas to create one pound of saffron.

Unfortunately, there are only three stigmas in each saffron flower, meaning you need a lot of saffron flowers to create a small amount of saffron.

2. Saffron Is Delicate

Saffron is a fairly delicate flower, so people need to pick the saffron flowers as soon as the flowers bloom.

Further, saffron will wilt if it is not picked in time, and saffron flowers are often picked within two weeks of blooming.

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3. Saffron Takes A Long Time To Grow

Reproducing saffron to create more saffron flowers is not easy since it takes a lot of time to complete.

Moreover, you can only harvest saffron flowers in the Fall early in the mornings when they bloom, making saffron a time-sensitive crop.

4. Saffron Requires Special Care To Grow

Farmers have to be extremely vigilant regarding the conditions saffron is grown in.

For example, saffron can easily wilt if it is exposed to too much cold weather, water, or sunlight, so farmers tend to charge more for saffron since saffron is very tedious to grow.

Moreover, it is difficult for saffron to reproduce, which is crucial because farmers need to harvest the stigmas from new saffron flowers.

Generally, the conditions have to be perfect for the saffron to split when the saffron reproduces, creating a clone to make a new flower.

5. Labor Costs

5. Labor Costs

As stated earlier, saffron is not an easy plant to grow since saffron requires a lot of attention and care.

As you can expect, the labor costs of growing saffron will be added to the price of saffron. For instance, harvesting saffron is an extremely time-sensitive and tiring job.

That said, some reports state that farmers can spend 19 hours a day harvesting the saffron flowers before the saffron flowers wilt.

6. High Demand

As with most products in the market, anything with high demand but a limited supply will be more expensive.

Moreover, this is especially true for saffron, which many people want, but only a limited amount of saffron can be grown.

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Unfortunately, it is unlikely that farmers can keep up with the high demand for saffron.

With that, farmers cannot suddenly produce more saffron when the demand is high, so they can only provide a limited amount of saffron to customers each year.

7. Climate Change

As stated earlier, saffron is a very delicate plant susceptible to wilting from slight weather changes.

Unfortunately, climate changes have created erratic weather patterns, which can damage saffron crops.

Further, climate change can damage most or even all of a farmer’s saffron crops if the weather is extremely bad, meaning whatever little saffron the farmer has left will likely be very expensive.

8. Saffron’s Chemicals Are Costly

Typically, the saffron flower contains three chemicals, which give saffron its color, smell, and taste.

Generally, the chemicals are very expensive, and those three chemicals are safranal, picrocrocin, and crocin.

9. Historical Significance

Normally, products that have historical significance are often more expensive.

So, saffron is priced high not only because of the effort it takes to grow but also because of the history behind saffron.

Further, saffron has been around for thousands of years and is used in more ways than one. For instance, the Romans often used saffron as a perfume scent.

10. Saffron Requires A Lot Of Land

As mentioned earlier, it can take hundreds of thousands of stigmas to create a single pound of saffron. Unfortunately for farmers, it also takes a lot of land to grow saffron.

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Generally, one acre of land can grow up to 200,000 saffron flowers.

That said, this means that you will only be able to get one pound of saffron from an acre of saffron flowers, which is why farmers make saffron more expensive.

11. Import Costs

Usually, saffron is grown and sold in countries like India, Spain, Italy, and France, meaning if the rest of the world wants saffron, they will need to import saffron from these countries.

Therefore, importing costs is a huge factor in saffron’s price since the price of gas, shipping, import taxes, etc., can contribute to saffron’s price tag.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why vanilla bean is so expensive, why spinach is so expensive, and why olives are so expensive.

Conclusion

Saffron is the most valuable spice around the world, making it also one of the most expensive spices. Therefore, saffron is so valuable that it is worth it’s weight in gold.

However, considering the amount of effort and time that goes into making saffron, the price of saffron is justified.

For example, only a limited amount of saffron can be grown each year, and harvesting and preparing saffron is not an easy feat.

Author

  • Maisie Hughes is a 20-year veteran of the culinary world. She has worked as a chef in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country, and she currently volunteers her time at local food banks.

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