Secretary of Iran's Saffron National Council Farshid Manouchehri announced that the country had exported more than 86 tons of the precious spice in the last Iranian year (March 21, 2010-March 20, 2011).
Close to 86 tons of the precious herb were exported in the year to March 20. This is while, saffron exports stood at 67 tons in the previous year (ended March 2010), Manouchehri said.
The official put the average price of saffron at between $2,200 and $2,500 per kilogram in global markets, adding the country's revenues from saffron export reached $215-$220 million in the last Iranian year (ended March 20).
Saffron whose botanical name is crocus sativus is the most expensive spice in the world.
Derived from the dried reddish-purple stigmas of the saffron crocus, it takes anything from 70,000 to 250,000 flowers to make one pound of saffron.
The flowers have to be individually handpicked in autumn when they are fully bloomed.
The delicate flowers are harvested only in mid-autumn. The flowers begin to grow after the first rains and the blooming period is usually mid-October when the temperature is just right.
Red gold is mainly cultivated in Kashmir, Iran, and southern Europe, particularly Spain with Iran being the world's top producer of the spice.
Due to its diverse climate and fertile soil, Iran's agriculture products are rated among the best in the world with saffron being no exception.
Iran's saffron production has in the past decade been increasing steadily, most of which is exported overseas, mainly to the United Arab Emirates, Spain, Japan, Turkmenistan, France, Italy and the US.
But saffron also has medicinal applications and a long history in traditional healing for the treatment of a variety of ailments such as menstrual pain, menopausal problems, depression, chronic diarrhea and neuralgia--modern medicine has also discovered saffron as having ant carcinogenic (cancer-suppressing) and antioxidant-like properties.