Pretty little flowers with massive money-making potential

Also known as “red gold”, saffron is a spice derived from the small crocus sativus flower. Saffron can fetch up to R250 000 per kilogram on the market, which is why teaching emerging and learner farmers to grow this precious flower lies at the very heart of Saamstaan.

Saamstaan, which means “together we stand”, is a one-year farming learnership programme by Laeveld Agrochem and AgriSkills. It teaches learners the practical skills needed to become a farmer by allowing them to work on an actual farm. At the same time, they are exposed to opportunities they may not have known of by learning about high-value crops, such as saffron.

According to Corné Liebenberg, Marketing Director of Laeveld Agrochem, who is also the title sponsor of Niche Farmers, all you need to start producing the world’s most expensive spice is about a quarter hectare of land and a starter pack of corms (or bulbs). Says Corné, “With a relatively small space, you can actually become a commercial farmer of saffron and earn a decent income, within a relatively short space of time.”

So, where do you get your saffron corms, how do you best grow them, and how do you gain access to the market? Fortunately, you can find all these answers in one place: on www.saffricon.com. You can order your corms from Saffricon’s online shop, watch their super-simple “how to” videos to learn how to grow saffron, and then sell your saffron right back to them. 

Corné explains that Saffricon has the resources and expertise to analyse the saffron and conduct all the relevant tests to ensure that it ticks the boxes and meets the criteria of both the local and international markets. This helps ensure that the quality of saffron we produce in Southern Africa is up to world standard.

If you’re keen to get going, then do heed Corné’s advice, which is to first start small. “I would recommend that you just buy a starter pack to begin with, and get through your first season, so you can learn as you grow, before you invest a lot of money.”

He explains that it is also important to understand that it is quite a labour-intensive farming operation, as these delicate flowers cannot be harvested with machinery. In fact, they need to be carefully snipped off by hand with a pair of scissors, one by one. 

Teaching emerging farmers to produce saffron is part of an aspirational three-point plan by Laeveld Agrochem, which aims to contribute to job creation, food security and establishing an inclusive agricultural sector on the African continent. Part 1 of the plan was the development of the Genesis range of functional food and drink products, which aims to make it possible for people to get at least one completely balanced, high-energy meal per day, at a super low cost.

Part 2 of the plan was developing the famous home garden starter pack by Laeveld Agrochem and AgricultSURE, which makes it possible for anyone to feed their family by growing veggies in the backyard. Part 3, the final part of this three-point plan, is growing high-value crops, such as saffron.

Corné concludes, “Quite simply put, we wanted to first make sure as many people as possible can afford at least one healthy meal per day. We then wanted to help as many people as possible to start growing their own food. Finally, we wanted to help as many people as possible to grow food for others and create a better future for themselves in the process.”

Go to www.laeveld.co.za to find out how Laeveld Agrochem can support you to start growing your own food or growing food for others. Follow @NicheFarmers on Facebook to connect and share with other emerging farmers.