Thursday, May 13, 2010

Growers Feel the Squeeze To Sell a Pinch of Saffron

New York Times article, "Growers Feel the Squeeze To Sell a Pinch of Saffron" (May 12th, 2010) describes worries of decline that saffron growers experience. These growers are given a special license by the Italian government:
The famed New York chef Mario Batali, , calls L’Aquila’s saffron “the best saffron in Italy.” In 2005, saffron grown here was awarded Italy’s “protected product” status, like Parmagiano Reggiano and prosciutto di Parma, acknowledging its extraordinary culinary standing.
Unfortunately, the youth don't seem interested in growing saffron, and the cooperative worries that they will not sustain membership for long. The article concludes,
Yet Ms. Sarra, who has been harvesting saffron since she was 3, is optimistic. In addition to the 97 members of the cooperative who can use the special product designation now, there are 10 applications pending. “We need to see they are good people, will respect the rules and take our strict rules seriously,” she said.
This collusive business, in which licensing restricts the number of people growing saffron in the cartel, will unlikely remain able to sustain higher than market prices. The article notes that for two weeks of work per year, these Italian farmers are able to earn $5,000 to $10,000 a year. If children of the farmers are not interested in cultivating saffron, someone, perhaps in a neighboring town with no special certification, will be. Perhaps even without this certification, the saffron grown outside of L'Aquila will taste just as good (maybe they'll earn $3,000 for the same two weeks of work).  Eventually people will notice that the "L'Aquila" stamp does not justify its price, and will turn to saffron grown elsewhere. Rather than discuss the dissolution of this cartel, however, the article mourns its loss, not even acknowledging the possibility that consumers are harmed by this town's actions.

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