Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

Iranian Fairtrade Saffron

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

We’ve just been informed that our gorgeous Fairtrade saffron has been removed from Amazon’s listings.

Iranian saffron is in breach of US sanctions against Iran, so cannot be sold in the UK.  Despite the nuclear deal signed in 2015, US companies still cannot trade with Iran on many products, so Amazon gets caught under that.  They’ve, also, removed an Iranian spice blend – sabzi ghormeh – that we make here in Yorkshire for sanction busting.  It’s a pity because both are good products.  I am sure that soon the position will be improved.

Needless to say, you can still buy it direct from Steenbergs and support the rural poor in Torbat, Iran.  In March, we posted some good photos of saffron picking in Iran.

From a UK perspective, the official UK Government’s position is that “There is a positive outlook for UK-Iran trade relations and the UK Government fully supports expanding our trade relationship with Iran.”

Fairtrade Saffron In Photos

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

It’s Fairtrade fortnight.  As part of this, I thought I would share some photos of our Iranian saffron being harvested.  Steenbergs Fairtrade saffron comes from the Arghavan Dasht Paeezan co-operative in Iran, and is picked and processed by hand.

The saffron is harvested in autumn, when the weather is cold and humid enough for the flowers to bloom.  The farmers and farmhands have to go early in the morning to pick the crocuses when they open with the rising sun.  Farmhands are usually from extended rural families or groups from nearby villages.  As the day heats up, the picked crocuses become much harder to clean because the petals lose their freshness and rigidity.

The harvesting continues for a fortnight or a month, depending on the crop.  Every day new flowers bloom, and each day the farmers labour from before sunrise and leave in the late afternoon.

The temperature is close to freezing, and often an autumn breeze also blows strongly, making the saffron harvest very difficult. The workers are given breakfast, lunch and hot drinks during the harvesting to keep them warm.

After then, the stamens need to be picked out of the crocuses by hand, and then dried, before getting the final deep orange-red spice filaments.

Exercised About Barclays Settlement With US Authorities On Sanction Busting

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

I have become increasingly bemused by the story about Barclays agreeing a settlement with the US authorities regarding violations of US sanctions against Cuba, Iran, Libya, Myanmar and Sudan.  The amount of the settlement was about $300 million (£192 million), which seems remarkably low, even though a lawyer from the Justice department stated that the settlement was “beyond what they [Barclays] earned” from the business transacted.

However, it is not the piddling amount that is exercising me, rather the fact that the story is a complete non-story.  Barclays broke the law in the US, yet we all just shrug our shoulders and regard it as a non-story, but if your neighbour broke sanctions or was involved in money laundering, I am sure that firstly, we would be thrown into gaol, but also treated with scorn by friends and family.

Where are the politicians nowadays who would stand up like Edward Heath when he denounced Tiny Rowland, the mining baron, as the “unacceptable face of capitalism” in part for breaking sanctions against Rhodesia.  Our economies and political systems are now so inextricably linked with the big mega-banks for financing governmental projects and deficits that they dare not complain or criticise.  What a damp squib it has been so far with the post-financial crisis review of banking across the Western world, and so (I guess) it will remain.

Have business and corporate morality really fallen so low that we just accept corrupt behaviour as an expected corporate norm?  Is business all about money and nothing else whatever the underlying basis of the transactions?  Perhaps it is and I am just a naive fool, but I hope there are some out there in the ether who try and conduct their lives – personal and business – with some basic ethics.

The West in decline, the rise of the East

Sunday, June 28th, 2009


There are 2 recent political events that hint to a major shift in the global geo-political structure:


·         The victory of the Sri Lankan government over the Tamil Tigers after 20 years of civil war in a overtly aggressive final push;


·         The victory of President Ahmadinejad in the elections in Iran recently which are almost certainly a result of a biased election process.


In both cases, the so-called first world or developed world moaned, complained and whined but both the Iranian and Sri Lankan governments simply ignored the views of their supposed betters.


This is simply because neither country needs to pay any heed to the views of the Western world, nor does the USA or the UK have any leverage.  The question is how did this happen?


In the case of Sri Lanka, they have sold a plot of land at Hanbantota to China to build a base for China’s Navy.  China has the money, China has the manpower, China has the military might.  It now is moving away from its traditionally internal looking political attitude to looking outwards for the first time in over 500 years. 


It wants first and foremost to protect is new found economic might.  So, like the British with its global empire, it is beginning by a desire:


1.       to protect its ability to trade through protecting its merchant fleet and keeping the shipping lanes open;


2.       it is looking to protect its access to base commodities like oil from the Gulf and also look at its (currently unsuccessful) deal with Rio Tinto and new discussions with Anglo American;


3.       it is looking to invest strategically by buying key technologies.


In the case of its low level military expansion it has acquired sites in relatively weak countries – Bangladesh, Burma Pakistan and Sri Lanka.  Sri Lanka then got military hardware in the form of guns, ordnance and six F7 jet fighters which allowed it to move on the Tamil Tigers.  So when China is providing over $1 billion and the UK £1.25 million and the USA $7.4 million, who cares what the so-called Developed world thinks.  Britain and America are simply impotent.


Iran has oil.  The price of oil is now relatively high, so the Iranian state has its own cash resource.  It does not need tax monies to finance itself as the governments do in Europe and America.  As a result, it does not need to listen to its people when it makes a political decision, which in this case seems to be to “elect” its incumbent President at all costs and who cares about auditable legitimacy.


The oil states have so far confined themselves to economic imperialism for the simple reason that the Gulf States do not have genuine depth of population, but Iran does.  So in the same way that Nigeria can happily tear itself apart with internal fighting financed through oil, Iran can ride roughshod over the democratic system it has put into place to give itself legitimacy.


With the global financial and economic crisis crippling the Western world in the short term and hobbling it in the long term, power has shifted eastwards.  China is in the ascendant and Europe is perhaps in permanent decline.  The USA will survive because of its size and its capacity to innovate and reinvent, but its sphere of interest will shift to the Pacific.  Perhaps it should even move its capital to the West Coast?


I don’t know where this change will take us.  However, I do know that the future politics of the world will be very different from the last 300 – 500 years; China and India are regaining their rightful places as the most powerful nations in the world.  Furthermore, countries like Britain must be very careful:


(a)     It must get its national accounts positive rather than constantly running in deficit as the cash-rich nations will not bankroll us forever, particularly as they become more powerful and more interested in themselves and West Coast of America; and


(b)     It must not become over-reliant on the East to do its manufacturing because they have now become the price-setters for much of our manufactured goods which will not be benign for much longer.