Afghan saffron production
Afghan authorities intend to boost saffron production Fayaz Kabli/Reuters

Afghan authorities have said the country's farmers would produce more than 4,000kgs of saffron in 2016 in order to replace the illegal opium harvest in the strife-torn country. Officials have expressed hopes the production of saffron is picking up across Afghanistan.

The country's Government Media and Information Centre (GMIC) said the prediction is based on the past harvest in Afghanistan and current trends. The agency said the measure is in line with boosting the agricultural sector after the idea was mooted by President Ashraf Ghani.

Experts have said that an increase in the saffron production will not only help the Afghan farmers to switch to legal cultivation methods but also would bestow a self-sufficient model. Authorities cited in the GMIC statement said this would significantly boost the exports from Afghanistan as well.

Though the exact figures are difficult to obtain, the country has been boosting its saffron output to the world in recent years. This is a marked shift from the infamous distinction for poppy cultivation.

Afghanistan has been the world's largest cultivator of poppy, the crop from which opium and heroin are obtained. In 2013, it is likely to account for nearly 90% of the global supply. The harvest in 2013 was estimated to be around 5,500 tonnes of opium, eclipsing 3,700 tonnes in 2012, reported the UN study.

Afghan Taliban, which taxes opium crops and protects the fields, has been one of the key beneficiaries of the drug trade.