Rumi Spice Update: 2021 and Beyond
Rumi Spice’s focus is to drive economic development in Afghanistan through agriculture. In early 2017, we began sourcing saffron from 11 farmers to fulfill 10 Whole Foods Midwest stores and a few Michelin star restaurants in the greater New York and Chicago areas.
To date, with the help of our Whole Foods Market national launch at the end of 2018, Rumi Spice has grown to become one of the only nationally distributed Afghan agricultural products in the United States, with a partnered network of over 350 farmers. We have also grown to become the largest private contractor of women in Afghanistan at nearly 4,000.
We continue to uphold our mission of creating jobs for women in Afghanistan. They support our business in processing and harvesting saffron and our other whole seed spices including Wild Black Cumin, Herati Coriander, and Wild Foraged Fennel (with an exciting new whole seed spice launch coming later this month - stay tuned!).
This past year we were thrilled to add four new Middle Eastern spice blends to our portfolio - Za’atar, Garam Masala, Ras el Hanout, and Harissa. Each of these blends incorporates our direct sourced Afghan spices, making these authentic flavors approachable to a wider audience while furthering our mission of using global flavors to create connections to the larger world. These new blends quickly gained traction with Rumi’s loyal customer base, both online and in retail stores nationwide.
The Taliban takeover in August 2021 created incredible uncertainty for the people of Afghanistan. For us, it solidified our mission even further. It is more important than ever that we continue to grow demand for their beautiful agricultural products in order to increase the number of farmers in our network and women that are a part of our processing. Through these gorgeous agricultural products, we want to show American’s the story of the Afghan people so they can come to know the vibrancy of the region and people, not just war and strife.
Beyond that, in 2021, Afghanistan suffered one of the worst droughts in decades. The lack of water to the crops cut the saffron yield in half. Fortunately, due to our devoted network of farmers, Rumi was able to continue increasing the amount of saffron and other whole seed spices we directly imported to the United States.
Since our inception, Rumi has imported nearly 1 MT of saffron, opening up the US market to this unique, high-quality product. Connecting rural farmers with markets outside of their own not only helps by creating jobs and economic stability, but also fosters valuable connections to the people, culture & cuisine of this vibrant region.
Furthermore, in 2019 we added Afghan whole seed spices to our product portfolio and have seen a substantial increase in demand for these products year over year. We started with Wild Black Cumin in 2019 and then began importing Coriander, Fennel, and Dill Seed the following year. We saw a huge surge in demand for our premium Afghan spices in 2021, which we sell as whole seed spices, as well as incorporate into our 12 signature spice blends.
This year's harvest took place over 32 days in October and November. Over the course of this time, Rumi contracted with 450 Afghan women, resulting in 115,200 hours of direct-paid labor. Rumi contracted farmers make 10-15% more working with Rumi due to our direct sourcing advantage and unique ability to remove the middle man from the equation.
Through all of this, Rumi’s farmers continue to uphold our extremely high safety and quality standards. We provide quality control and safety training to ensure our farmers utilize best practices when cultivating. All of our saffron is tested in accordance with ISO protocol 3632 and surpasses the highest standards for Category 1 saffron by over 25%, making it among the world’s best saffron.
“We are very excited about the chance to import more and more saffron and other spices to Rumi every year,” said Abdul Shakoor Ahrari, the head of our network of farmers. “We are optimistic that this relationship will only continue to grow in the years to come.”
There are lots of exciting things in store for Rumi Spice in 2022 including a Q1 whole seed spice launch, an exciting packaging rebrand, and new packaging formats and product lines. We are thrilled to continue growing and evolving alongside our network of loyal, devoted farmers and taking advantage of the amazing resources that come out of this vibrant region.
Thank you for being a part of this journey and for your continued support of Rumi Spice. We can’t wait for another exciting year ahead!