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DimensionThe following 11 COST countries have actively participated in the preparation of the Action or otherwise indicated their interest: Switzerland, Denmark, Spain, France, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Netherlands, Turkey, United Kingdom. On the basis of national estimates, the economic dimension of the activities to be carried out under the Action has been estimated at 5,7 Million € for the total duration of the Action. This estimate is valid under the assumption that all the countries mentioned above but no other countries will participate in the Action. Any departure from this will change the total cost accordingly.

Rationale of the Economic Dimension estimed for the COST Action

Effort in person months: 482 (10 person-year x 12 COST countries x 4 years total duration) plus 2 per Management Committe and the 4 WGs.

Personnel Cost of 3,8 Million € (Average 100.000€ x 38 scientiests initialy adhered to this saffron COST Action

Total Costs are foreseen are including Additional expenses as equipment, high tech and infraestructure
average cost of 50000 € per 38 researchers (1,9 million €).

Figures on Saffron, a Billion USD business.

Some authoritative estimates say that over the past year the market has been the actual purchase of around 60 t, lower than the 200-300 t referred in previous years. The current average price of 2,000 USD per kg, that means an amount of 120 Million USD. The wholesale market is another 60,000 kg, at an average price of 15,000 USD per kg. That represents 900 Million USD. In addition to this Pure Saffron figures the volume of Adulterated Saffron must be added, which may be of the same amount but at a price 1,500 USD per kg. That means 90 Million USD of adulteration.

The estimated unofficial world production of pure Saffron in the last years is about: Iran 50 t (although some Iranian sources alleged 300 t), India 8 t, Greece 2 t, Morocco 1 t, Spain 100 kg (although some Spanish sources alleged 1,5 t), Italy (with Sardinia) 100 kg, and France 10 kg for 40 producers.

World demand: India 20 t, Europe 20 t, Middle East 10 t, USA 5 t, and China 1 t. Offer and demand are almost balanced. Derivative products represent a very small part of the business.

The volume of fraud and adulteration counts for more than 50 % of the market and involves different types of fakes: (i) use of the world “Saffron” on products that are not or do not contain Saffron, (ii) adulteration of the spice by mixing or substituting Saffron with others substances in weight,(iii) Refined adulteration with artificial colorants. As explained before, mislabeling and confusion with PDOs must be also taken into account.

The allegations of massive fraud and adulteration of saffron are permanent and extend to the media. The most recent is dated January 10, 2011, in the British newspaper The Independent, which states that (taken literally): “Food officials have begun an investigation into claims that "red gold" is routinely adulterated with other, worthless parts of the crocus flower in a scam that is defrauding thousands of gourmands. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has asked its counterparts in Spain to test the saffron being exported from that country after being tipped off that supposedly "pure and genuine" saffron on sale in the UK is of poor quality, and fails to supply the usual colour and aroma. An amateur cook in Britain prompted the investigation by using his own money to buy large quantities of saffron to be tested at labs owned by the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce in Spain, one of the largest exporters. His findings prompted the FSA to intervene.
Saffron should be painstakingly harvested from the stigma of crocus sativus linnaeus, some 85,000 of which are needed to produce a single kilogram. Under international standards, the finest saffron – which sells for £6 a gram, £6,000 a kilo – should have only 0.5 per cent of "floral waste" and 0.1 per cent "extraneous matter". But the results on 10 brands purchased and sent for analysis, passed on by the amateur cook to The Independent, suggest that the use of other parts of the crocus range from between 40 per cent and 90 per cent. In other words, some "top-quality" saffron allegedly contains as little as 10 per cent of actual saffron. Adulteration of saffron has been a problem for at least 600 years.  Epidemic levels in the 15th century led to implementation of the Safranschou code, under which saffron adulterators were fined, imprisoned or executed. Less dramatically, adulteration of saffron surfaced in the UK in West Yorkshire 11 years ago when trading standards officers launched an investigation into allegations that stigmas, the tip of the plant's pollen-collecting buds, were being bulked out with worthless material. Since then, the problem seemed to disappear, but the anonymous saffron purchaser noticed a deterioration four years ago, since when saffron has become even weaker. "I have a passion for cooking. I always use the best ingredients and lately I started to look at the quality and think there was a problem," the cook recalled. "There was something wrong with the saffron." On the basis of the laboratory reports he has received, exporters appear to be adding in other parts of the crocus after dyeing them with artificial additives. It would be much cheaper than using 100 per cent stigmas, which must be harvested between dawn and 10am, otherwise they lose colour and aroma. "They are making loads of money out of this," the investigator said. Confirming its investigation, the Food Standards Agency said: "The FSA takes all allegations of food fraud very seriously, which is why it is working closely with Spanish counterparts to discover whether there is any truth in the allegations of fraudulent saffron being placed on the market." The Independent (on line):


This article illustrates the importance of the problem that fits this action COST.