Why do Indians not buy it?
The same answer can be given to any other commodity. It costs so much more in India, even at the wholesale level because of the government’s policy of levying stamp duty. Inflation can double the cost, which is why saffron is still rare in India.
But the saffron crisis was not brought about by the government’s policy – it was provoked by the Indian government, especially the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), which had, for decades, sought to control the Indian saffron industry.
The CBDT wanted saffron to be produced only at one specific, exclusive location, and that place was Delhi. This meant all the saffron and all the labour costs were shifted to Delhi, where much of it was sourced.
For the first few years, this policy worked reasonably well. However, as the demand increased, and as the price rose, as a result of rising quality, and rising transport costs too (for transporting and storing saifran, the raw material), the industry went belly up.
The CBDT got fed up with the “cheapness” of the industry and decided to raise the price of saffron, to make it easier for farmers to produce high-quality saffron. The price hike caused the prices of saffron to skyrocket, which caused the companies in the industry to go bust.
CBDT did not want to spend money on providing free-market solutions to industries like this, so they started raising prices all the time, and the whole industry went belly up. That is why saffron is rare in India.
A third reason is cultural factors that are related to Indian cultural values.
Saifran is a spice in the south where we have strong religious and cultural beliefs, such as worship of the elephant, lion and god. Saifran also has a very strong connection with the holy trinity, Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma – all of which have come into conflict with one another recently.
According to the Brahminical doctrine, the three gods – Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, rule the universe. Their fight with one another is the foundation of Hinduism. And for centuries, the saffron was believed to have the ability to ward off these three evil deities.
A lot of Hindu rituals in India involve the sacrifice of animals and, since the creation of agriculture, this has been the
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