KROKOS, Greece (Reuters) – Every autumn, Zisis Kyrou is some-more mostly found plucking flowers in northern Greece’s purple saffron fields than in his bureau as a polite engineer.

Saffron – a piquancy so costly it’s called “red gold” – has brought jobs and income to a segment improved famous for spark mines and unemployment. A year ago, a producers began exporting to a United States. Now they’re looking to China.

Most are immature Greeks who were close out of a pursuit marketplace during Greece’s nine-year mercantile downturn. They returned to a panorama to make a vital off a land.

“It was tough to find work in your margin during a crisis, quite in polite engineering, since there was no construction,” pronounced Kyrou, 34, as he harvested with pollen-stained hands.

In 2012, he returned to Greece from London with dual university degrees. He eventually non-stop an engineering bureau in his encampment of Krokos, though many of his income comes from his 4 acres of land, that he hopes to increase.

“I didn’t suppose I’d return,” he said. “But it was a preference we don’t regret.”

Greeks have been cultivating saffron for 3 centuries in a panorama surrounding Krokos, that takes a name from Crocus, a saffron flower. Alexander a Great is pronounced to have used it to reanimate conflict wounds.

But until 2000, prolongation was singular to 30 kg a year for domestic consumption, pronounced Nikos Patsiouras, who heads Greece’s Cooperative of Saffron.

That altered in 2008, when a predicament hit. Greece now produces about 4 tonnes a year, 70 percent of that goes abroad. The Cooperative has doubled a members from 494 to 1,000. It also has increasing a land from 592 acres in 2008 to 1,349 acres.

“A lot of immature people found work in a fields – scientists,” Patsiouras said. “I trust some-more will join.”

Signs of a predicament are manifest opposite Krokos, where shuttered shops line a streets. Unemployment in northwestern Greece is 23.5 percent, 3 points aloft than a inhabitant average. But a fields are abuzz.

“We have God on a side, who gave us such a singular product,” Patsiouras said. “We reason on to it like a apple of a eye.”

Saffron grows usually in this segment of Greece. Marketed as Krokos Kozanis, one gram costs about 4 euros in Greek shops.

It takes 150,000 flowers to make a kilo of a spice, that sells for about 1,500 euros. Flowers are handpicked, and during a mild women in blue altogether import and package it. They are banned to wear make-up and perfume, to strengthen a flavour.

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Iran is by distant a world’s biggest saffron producer, though direct for a Greek accumulation is rising, Patsiouras said. Greece is in talks with China for exports in 2019.

In a Patsiouras household, 3 generations have collected after a day of harvesting to mislay a saffron strands from a flowers and dry them.

“If we don’t

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