TERUEL, May 22 (EUROPA PRESS) -The book ‘Comprehensive Improvement of the Saffron Cultivation of Jiloca’ includes part of “an ambitious project” for the improvement and promotion of the saffron in Teruel. This initiative has been carried out by a multidisciplinary team of researchers specialized in areas such as plant production, plant health and agri-food economy.
“Saffron was an important crop until 35 years ago, but it has disappeared in practically all of Spain except Castilla-La Mancha. What we intend with this project is to lay the foundations for a possible recovery of the crop, “explained the head of the CITA Plant Production Unit, José María Álvarez, in statements to Europa Press.
In this sense, he commented that the current surface of the Jiloca area (Teruel) currently has about six hectares in which saffron is produced. This small extension sells practically everything it produces by selling it to restaurants, ‘groumet’ stores and fairs, but “at prices that double the market price, therefore they are profitable”.
This is because Jiloca saffron occurs naturally, “especially the drying method”, and this is also reflected in the recognition of the ‘C’ for ‘Quality’ that the product. For this reason, the project deals with topics on the improvement and development of cultivation techniques to optimize production.
Based on this, Álvarez has indicated that the saffron should be promoted and protected through the Denomination of Origin. “There are characteristics in this products at a molecular and chemical level that can differentiate it from other crocuses, with this you can create a D.O.”, he explained.
With regard to marketing saffron more globally, the CITA researcher mainly poses two problems: competitiveness and production. Although Teruel’s saffron is “of higher quality and healthier”, it has to compete with the Iranian, which “is more commercialized and cheaper, especially because workers’ wages are lower,” he added.
On the other hand, the production of saffron is complicated because “it does not multiply through seeds, but by cards, which makes it more difficult to increase its extension.”To solve these problems, the research opts to “mechanize the crop to reduce costs”.
This project is included in the Specific Plan for Teruel, in which the Center for Agrifood Research and Technology of Aragon (CITA), the University of Castilla-La Mancha and the Polytechnic University of Valencia have participated.
Scientists have approached the cultivation of saffron in Jiloca from its different disciplines; genetic improvement, molecular biology, typing, crop protection, marketing and economics.