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The most expensive spice in the world, grown in Moldova. A saffron flavor story from farmer Alexandru Drugus, Microinvest client

Saffron, known as the “red gold”, is one of the most valuable plants in the world. It is said that Cleopatra used it for cosmetics, Alexander the Great used it to treat wounds after battles, and the great Greek healer Hippocrates, as well as the poets Homer and Shakespeare, mentioned its amazing properties in their works. Italian risotto and Spanish paella with saffron are among the most delicious dishes served in the world’s elite restaurants.

After several years of working abroad, the young entrepreneur Alexandru Drugus decided to cultivate the famous Mediterranean spice at home, in Moldova. Today, he owns a plantation spanning over 60 acres and boasts extensive experience in harvesting this spice right in the heart of Moldova. To expand his business, he sought financial support from Microinvest, which believed in his venture. Today, Microinvest stands as one of his trusted partners.

How did the “Biosofran”SRL?

The idea emerged during a conversation with a friend about returning home from abroad. We discussed various topics and ultimately resolved to grow saffron and establish our own business locally. Without much hesitation, we conducted a thorough market analysis, researched methods of cultivating this plant, and purchased 500 bulbs for planting from Holland. Within a year, we observed that the plant adapted exceptionally well to our climate and soil, and we even harvested our first crop. In 2021, we established BioSofran LLC and planted an additional 25,000 bulbs. Our success was driven solely by our passion and dedication, without relying on acquaintances, connections, or substantial financial resources.

It is said that it takes more than 250,000 flowers to produce one kilogram of saffron. Tell us about growing and harvesting this precious plant?

Yes, indeed, growing and harvesting saffron is a very painstaking task. It is for this reason that it is so precious. Generally, saffron is unpretentious and can be grown in any climate and soil. It has adapted very well to our conditions. Saffron is a perennial plant that develops from bulbs, with a growing season of up to 11 years. For good fruiting, the bulbs need to be replanted every 4 years. The finished product is the dark red stigmas extracted from the flower. They can be dried naturally or in the oven (for powder production). We choose the natural option – drying at room temperature for 7 days and selling it in the form of stigmas. In fact, this is the best saffron. Powder can often be counterfeit. We work as a family, doing everything by hand, with patience and soul.

What is saffron used for and what magical benefits does it bring?

The primary and foremost use of saffron is in cooking, where it imparts a beautiful color and a distinctive, natural flavor to dishes. Renowned chefs worldwide incorporate it into their culinary creations. Besides its culinary uses, saffron finds extensive application in cosmetology for treating acne and minimizing wrinkles. Its remarkable properties are also harnessed in medicine for bolstering the immune system, enhancing nervous system function, improving gastrointestinal health, and serving as an analgesic and cough suppressant, among others. In the Republic of Moldova, saffron is a relatively new product with considerable development potential. Our clientele primarily comprises businesses, including well-known restaurant chains that feature saffron-infused specialties. Additionally, we have explored cooperative ventures with cosmetics manufacturers and even wine producers. In several countries worldwide, the intriguing combination of wine and saffron enjoys popularity. This blend offers a captivating interplay of taste and aroma, making it a noteworthy choice for discerning palates.

What is Microinvest’s role in the development of your business?

Microinvest provided us with financial support to purchase our first batch of saffron bulbs in 2021 through their Business Rapid product. The decision process was remarkably swift – we submitted the documents, underwent a phone analysis, and received approval on the same day. Our cooperation with Microinvest has been excellent and efficient. Importantly, Microinvest was one of the few institutions that believed in our idea. Some banks we approached were not as receptive, echoing the sentiment in our country that success relies solely on money and connections. However, we proved otherwise. Initially lacking both funds and influential contacts, we approached financing responsibly and achieved success.

What advice would you give to young agricultural entrepreneurs?

I’ve always maintained a skeptical attitude towards loans for acquiring unnecessary items that can be avoided. However, I firmly believe that responsible loans are indispensable for business development. Starting and establishing a business is undeniably challenging, but with determination and passion, success becomes attainable. Behind our venture lies the hard work of both my partner and our families. While we still have much ground to cover, we are making steady progress and setting ambitious goals. Achieving these aspirations requires not only desire and dedication but also the support of responsible partners who prioritize the well-being of their clients.

*Microinvest is the only non-bank credit institution in Moldova which adheres to international customer protection principles. They involve a responsible and transparent lending process, based on a fair, respectful and equitable approach to customer service.


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