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The Climate Crisis Is Threatening Spain’s Saffron Crop

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While that small-scale, low-tech approach may have kept saffron production going over the past few decades, it has also left it on the edge of extinction.

“We’re being held back by the idiosyncrasies of the sector itself,” says Fernández. “What we’re trying to do now is bring about a change and a transition so we’re not left behind in this folk tradition, which is where I think we are now. As producers, we can’t grow enough saffron to meet our customers’ demand all year round, and that means it’s not a stable business.”

Production is unpredictable because the bulb-like corms from which the crocuses grow are susceptible to fungus and very sensitive to temperature changes. Over recent years, the 200 producers whose saffron has protected origin status have seen what the climate emergency is doing to their crops.

Higher temperatures and less rainfall mean that flowering happens later and later each year as the plants wait for things to cool down. Yields are also fluctuating. The average yield in 2015 was around 650 kilograms, rising to a peak in 2018 of 915…

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