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Saffron: The World’s Costliest Condiment Sees Increasing Price in Udupi

Kesar

Saffron, renowned for its culinary and medicinal properties, has ascended to the pinnacle of luxury as the costliest condiment globally. Traditionally used in Indian households, particularly in the preparation of sweets, saffron’s price surge has captured attention, reaching unprecedented heights.

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Price Surge and Production Challenges

Once priced at Rs 1.5 to 2 lac per kilogram, saffron now commands an astounding Rs 4 lac per kilogram. Export-grade saffron, prized for its quality, fetches even higher prices, ranging from Rs 8.5 lac to Rs 13.5 lac per kilogram. Production challenges, exacerbated by conflicts between nations like Russia and Ukraine and Israel and Palestine, have led to a decline in saffron output, particularly in Iran, the largest producer.

Global Production and Indian Cultivation

While Iran remains the dominant producer, India also contributes to saffron cultivation, primarily in the Pampore district of Kashmir and Kishtwar district of Jammu, with smaller yields from Gujarat, Sikkim, and parts of Karnataka. India’s total production stands at six to seven metric tonnes, cultivated across 5,707 hectares. Other countries like Greece, Morocco, and Spain also contribute to saffron production, albeit in smaller quantities.

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Culinary and Health Implications

Saffron finds extensive use in Indian cuisine, enriching dishes like milk, payasam, jalebi, and kesari bath. However, the market is flooded with saffron substitutes, often laced with harmful chemicals, posing health risks to consumers. Recognized cooks like Venkatraman Bhat emphasize the importance of using natural saffron over chemical alternatives, advocating for the preservation of culinary traditions and health standards.

Future Outlook and Culinary Conservation

Despite its exorbitant price, saffron continues to be prized for its unique flavor and health benefits. As global demand surges, efforts to sustainably cultivate and preserve saffron’s authenticity become paramount. By prioritizing natural saffron and discouraging chemical substitutes, culinary traditions and health standards can be safeguarded for future generations.

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