In 2016, the Central University of India (CUI) law department set up a national law unit to study the implications of the consumption, cultivation, manufacturing and harvesting of saffron and what would happen if it is banned. It’s been six years and the results are here – in November 2015, the law department decided to ban saffron cultivation.
The Centre has decided to ban imports of saffron or any part of it. This was made possible by a Supreme Court order in May 2017, which also banned the sale of seeds which contain the saffron in India. The ban includes saffron oil, but also the leaf and flower and all seeds made with that. “This comes after a review that has taken over three years,” says Bhanpreet Singh, a solicitor.
So why is it not just banned?
There’s no single reason for this decision. A few days after the court order came into force, it was felt that Indian saffron growers were having a difficult time keeping their crop alive, with higher losses from crop rot. It is therefore decided to ban the sales of saffron and other imported raw materials for saffron oil, for India’s saffron industry as well as consumers. “The ban comes in the backdrop of growing concern among consumer groups that they are losing their purchasing power against non-Saffron-related products,” says Bhanpreet. The ban will also protect saffron growers who are suffering from high losses when a crop is in need of protection, though that will not affect the consumer choice of saffron oil, according to the law department.
Does the ban affect all seeds or only saffron?
The ban does not extend to saffron seeds. “No seed will be illegal,” says Bhuvnesh. “But it is a decision that is being taken in the context of the saffron business in India,” he says, adding that this is another reason why saffron was included in the ban. This also reflects the desire of the government to have a consistent, long term approach.
The ban has also been extended to imported seeds. “The bans come in the backdrop of the fact that India is one of the top 10 countries, producing saffron, but is a market to which only domestic products (i.e. saffron oil, flowers, stems, seeds) flow. While this will change after several years in which the
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