| BERLIN, Sept 30
BERLIN, Sept 30 Once cultivated by Persian kings
and believed to have healing powers, saffron is now fuelling the
growth of a small German business that imports tons of the spice
from Iran to make fine food products for sale in Europe and the
"We try to capture the soul of saffron and the magic it
contains," says Michael Sabet, an Iranian-German business
executive who quit his banking job six years ago to found Miasa
GmbH, which is now doubling its revenues every year.
Sabet is one of many German business leaders who see great
business opportunities opening up in Iran after the end of
sanctions related to its nuclear weapons programme. Economy
Minister Sigmar Gabriel heads to Iran next week with a planeful
of executives keen to rebuild trade ties.
"Germany has always had a good relationship with Iran and I
think it will continue to expand," Sabet said. "I hope the end
of sanctions will allow exports to rise and have a positive
effect on the import business as well."
Miasa delivers large quantities of high quality saffron to
industrial users, but also produces 20 different products
ranging from saffron-infused sea salt, honey, rice and even
coffee that are sold via the company's website or at luxury
stores like Berlin's famous Kaufhaus des Westens, or KaDeWe.
It also produces a liquor infused with elderberry, lychees
and saffron that sells for nearly 40 euros ($44.90) a bottle,
and even comes in a non-alcoholic version for sale to Muslim
Sabet says the business is growing fast given increasing
demand for specialty "fine foods," the rise of gourmet cooking
shows and the increasing popularity of Middle Eastern cooking.
Sweden is one of the biggest consumers of saffron because the
spice plays a key role in Christmas baked goods, he said.
In the Gulf, more consumers are also looking for packaged
products such saffron rice, he said.
Initially Sabet tried to grow saffron - which comes from the
flower of the crocus plant - in Germany's Black Forest, but soon
realised the yield per plant was far too low to produce the
quantities needed for industrial-scale sales.
"It takes about 100 plants to produce one gram of saffron,"
he said. "So you can imagine how big the fields have to be to
produce one kilo."
Iran produces about 90 percent of the world's saffron, but
hundreds of years ago, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy
were also important producers during the Middle Ages.
The idea for Miasa was born when Sabet's Iranian father and
German mother brought back a can of saffron from a trip to Iran.
"I was just fascinated," said Sabet, who was born in
Germany. "So I decided to jump into a new adventure."
His father has since died, but Sabet has developed a whole
new appreciation for Iranian culture through his work, including
yearly visits for the saffron harvest.
"This has opened up whole new horizons for me. I'm getting
back into the language and learning so much," he said.
"Iran has had a bad reputation as part of the so-called
'axis of evil,' but I'm sure they'll get over it."
($1 = 0.8908 euros)
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)