Saffron Prices per Pound in 2024: What to Expect When Buying

Dried saffron spices in a bottle and saffron flower on a wooden table.
© ZhakYaroslav/Shutterstock.com

Written by Joyce Nash

Published: January 18, 2024

Share on:

Advertisement


Saffron has long been prized for its delicate flavor and the distinctive yellow hue it imparts to dishes. To the dismay of chefs everywhere, saffron is the most expensive spice on the planet and can cost thousands of dollars per pound. Keep reading to learn about saffron prices in 2024 and what to expect this year when buying.

Dried saffron spices in a bottle and saffron flower on a wooden table.

Saffron is a popular ingredient in many Middle Eastern, Spanish, and Indian dishes.

©ZhakYaroslav/Shutterstock.com

What is Saffron

Also known as “Red Gold,” saffron is a spice that is most commonly used in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian cuisine. Its flavor is subtle but complex, contributing a floral earthiness to dishes like paella and biryani. 

Saffron is derived from the Crocus sativus flower, which is part of the family Iridaceae. The flower’s stigmas are hand-plucked and dried to produce saffron threads. Each flower produces only three stigmas, and it takes nearly 200 flowers to produce a single ounce of saffron.

Why Saffron is so Expensive

The process of harvesting saffron is uniquely labor-intensive, which leads to high prices on the marketplace. The flower that produces saffron is sterile and must be manually propagated by dividing the plant’s corms. The saffron crocus, as its commonly known, blooms for just six weeks each year and the blooms must be picked during a certain time of day. Then, workers pluck each flower’s three stigmas by hand.

It can take years for Crocus sativus corms to fully mature, and once they do, it takes thousands of flowers to produce a pound of saffron. In addition to its difficult harvesting methods, Crocus sativus crops are vulnerable to changes in environmental conditions. Too much direct sunlight can damage the delicate flowers, and too much humidity can negatively impact the saffron’s quality.

Saffron’s flavor and quality can vary widely. The spice is sorted into three grades based on how much or little of the flower’s lower corolla is included, which gives the threads a more yellowish hue.

Separation of saffron threads from the rest of the flower

Saffron threads are harvested by hand, contributing to the spice’s high prices on the marketplace.

©ZhakYaroslav/Shutterstock.com

Which Countries Produce the Most Saffron

Saffron is predominantly grown in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. Iran is the world’s leading producer of saffron, exporting over 600,000 pounds each year. China follows with over 300,000 pounds of annual saffron exports. Europe’s leading saffron-producing countries are the United Kingdom, Spain, and the Czech Republic. 

The spice takes on different flavor profiles depending on its country of origin. Saffron from Afghanistan has a distinctive bitter aftertaste, while saffron from India is unique for its peppery flavor.

Saffron Prices in 2024

At the time of writing, retail prices for saffron produced in the United States range from $349-$655 per pound, while U.S. saffron is available for wholesale at $244-$548 per pound. In Europe, current retail prices for U.S. saffron range from EUR 320-600 per pound. Saffron from Iran commands a higher price, ranging from $1,090-$1,227 per pound

 Market experts predict that prices for saffron produced and exported from the U.S. will continue to climb. In Europe, forecasters are predicting that customers will see rising prices for saffron in 2024 due to changing climate conditions and increasing demand.


Share this post on:
About the Author

Joyce Nash is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering travel and geography. She has almost a decade of writing experience. Her background ranges from journalism to farm animal rescues and spans the East Coast to the West. She is based in North Carolina, and in her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking, and spending time with her husband and two cats.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.