Blockchain in Supply of Saffron: A prevention of frauds on the World’s most expensive spice

This article projects light upon Saffron: considered red gold, it is one of the most expensive spices in the world that has applications in food, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical industry. It costs 3000$ for 2 pounds, it’s global market value is expected to reach 555 million USD by 2026. Inevitably it is also 4th most adulterated food in the world, it could be blamed upon lack of supply chain regulation and monitoring and technical methodologies. QuillHash has developed a solution to counteract the sharp practices performed in the industry: QuillTrace.

Saffron or red gold is considered one of the most expensive spices obtained from the dried stigma of the flower of saffron crocus (Crocus Sativus). it is heavily demanded in the food, beverage, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry. The medical application is expected to gain market share on account of various properties of saffron which include anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic, antioxidant, anti-proliferative, and similar other medicinal properties. It is also used in the treatment of asthma, cancer, hypoxia, cough, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, and other common ailments. The demand for saffron as an herbal alternative in medical applications is anticipated to drive the market between 2016 to 2025. 

The global saffron market was valued at 390 million U.S. dollars in 2017 and is forecast to increase its value to about 555 million U.S. dollars by 2026. The current price for 2 pounds (about 1 kg) of saffron is 3000$, meanwhile, the current price of gold is $1,548/ounce. Its lavishness could be pinned upon:

  • The weather. Saffron only thrives in extreme temperatures, both cold and hot, so even minute variation in the climate can affect its growth. It grows well in areas that have cold Winters and warm, dry Summers.
  • The harvest. Saffron grows inside crocus flowers, and it has to be handpicked at mid morning on a sunny day— a very difficult, time-consuming task.
  • The scarcity. For one gram of saffron, almost 400 flowers are required. Long, deep-red threads have the most flavour, too, so chances that every flower delivers a perfect product are slim. Each flower only produces 3 stigmas, So it will take about 75,000 crocus flowers to make 1 pound of saffron.

Iran produces 95 % of the world’s saffron. India, along with Greece, Spain, Italy, Morocco, and Azerbaijan, produces the rest. Kashmir is India’s only saffron producing center. Europe dominated the market with a 35 % overall share. In Europe, Spain and Italy are the major consumers of saffron on account of rising needs from the food sector, countries are engaged in Formulation manufacturing.

Countries that produce the most to least amount of saffron 

Saffron Export :

The total export value of saffron is $275.84M USD, there has been a 36.4% increase in its export value for the last five years, with 16.72% concentration of export market (HH Index). Iran is the top exporter with a market share of 36.7%. 

Spain ranked 2nd at a market share of 20.7%  with approximately 14.65 RCA value. 

Saffron Import :

The total import value of saffron is $275.84M USD with a 34.6% increase in the last five years, with a 20.94% concentration of import market (HH index). Hong Kong is the top importer with a 36.3% market share in global imports. 

Swindling in the Saffron Industry:

The extravagance of saffron also makes it the most adulterated food in the world, it is ranked 4th worldwide in the list. It could be blamed upon the high price of the spice, lack of supply chain regulation and monitoring, and the technological methodologies available to detect them. The high potential profit has fuelled the counterfeit market. 

Spanish authorities uncovered a clandestine saffron operation where saffron stamens were being mixed with pure saffron fibers.

A survey of saffron in India has found that 44% of samples were adulterated with non-stigma parts of the saffron plant or parts of other plants. In the same survey, none of the samples met ISO quality grades I or II.

Saffron was found to be the most frequently adulterated or inauthentic spice in a French survey conducted in 2018. One sample was 100% safflower. Of the saffron samples tested, 81% had anomalies with authenticity. 

Last year Saffron laced with other lower quality ingredients was found in outlets in the county by West Sussex Trading Standards services, the seizure of almost 90kg of the product, about £750,000, from a factory in Spain. Out of the ten samples tested seven were diluted with cheap plant fibers.

Smugglers have abandoned drugs and have turned to red gold as it seems to be more remunerating than drugs. In India, customs officers claimed of uncovering up to three saffron smuggling scams every day as criminals try to illegally import the aromatic flower from Iran. saffron prices have soared in India due to the decline in harvest because of climate change, poor irrigation, and pollution in the region. The circuit is driven by the fact that a kg of saffron costs £1,100 in Iran while it fetched double in India. 

A figure recognized by Spain’s farmer’s union, ASAJA, that barely one percent of the saffron labeled as Spanish is actually grown in the country, the rest is made up of poor-quality imports from Iran, Morocco, Greece. According to figures released by Spain’s ministry of industry, the country exported 190,000 kilos of saffron in 2010, a sale that netted £40 million. But local production of the tiny filaments from the purple crocus blooms amounted to only 1,500 kilos. The discrepancy revealed the huge extent to which producers import cheaper saffron, process it and repackage it as Spanish, the union said.

The saffron supply chain is as follows: 

Suppliers provide farmers with the saffron bulb, which is harvested. The next step is the careful separation of stigma from the flowers avoiding the integration of unwanted flower parts, this step is usually done at the dawn of the light. After the extraction of stigma, they are sent to the validated processor and seller. For authentic quality saffron, there should be a constant flow of information as adulteration and deceit can occur at any step. Most of the saffron frauds mentioned above took place at one of the steps of the supply chain. Hence, data should always be kept intact and emended to maintain product status.

As apparent from the image above, the first step: are the producers who deliver the harvested saffron produce to the rural cooperatives, wholesale market, and exchange market the former sells the produce within the country while the latter exports the produce. In between the stages, there are multiple steps like packaging, food safety test, authenticity tests until the packaged and validated product reach the end consumer. 

As evident from the two images above there are a number of stakeholders in the saffron produce until it reaches the customer. It passes through various channels, each channel has a different operation hence a fault in the chain is inevitable. The involvement of too many channels leads to quality deterioration due to the addition of adulterants thereby reducing the spot price of saffron. It could happen at any stage, must be understood by now that even a minute loss in a batch is extreme seeing. 

This is where QuillHash comes in :

Because of the apparent reasons, the reliability of the product has reduced. Perceiving the global scenario of saffron, QuillHash has launched a supply-chain monitoring platform QuillTrace.  

QuillTrace empowers traceability by introducing transparency in the supply chain. It is a procurement platform runs on blockchain technology that ensures complete transparency in supply-chain management for various industries, to regain the trust and efficiency it once had.

Quilltrace solution is especially useful in such a premium industry as every step of the chain from harvesting to packaging can be recorded on the blockchain, the procession of saffron from the producer to the retailer could be viewed by the consumer which would further prove the authenticity of the product. 

Benefits of QuillTrace in the saffron industry: 

  • Information can be tracked from production to delivery point
  • It aids in analyzing, plans activities, and make trade-offs based on information from the entire supply chain.
  • Integration of IoT device for live tracking.
  • It provides complete visibility for all parties involved.
  • Data can be accessed by any party of the system at any time

QuillTrace is the production of QuillHash which aims to simplify and moralize the supply chain, counteracting major issues faced in the industry. QuillTrace has the potential to create a win-win situation for both consumers and businesses. 

Get to know more about QuillTrace in the shared link below:

QuillTrace Transparency is the Key!

Feel free to request a Demo for a better understanding of QuillTrace and how it could benefit from your existing system.

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