Saffron Industry: Threats and challenges

Binish Qadri

Horticulture occupies a significant position in agriculture economy of sate. Horticulture with its production and export worth millions defines the financial strength of state economy. Among the fruit, apple is most important crop and among spices, saffron and black zeera occupy important position.

Excerpts:

 

A Shift:

 

“Significant changes are witnessed in the nature and direction of cropping pattern. In Jammu and Kashmir state too there has been a shift observed in cropping patterns, particularly in the horticulture sector, in the last few decades. Horticulture occupies a very significant position in the predominantly agricultural economy of the state with huge contribution of agriculture and allied industries in the state economy. Horticulture with its production and exports worth millions defines the financial strength of Jammu and Kashmir economy. It is the backbone of the economy in Kashmir with 2.3 million people associated with the sector. Around 20 percent area of the state is under horticultural crops. The sector contributes around 5000 crores to the annual income of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. As per the horticulture census 2016-17, among the fruits apple is the most important crop of J&K State with 48% of the area covered under apple cultivation. Similarly, among the spices saffron and black zeera occupy prominent positions. Saffron is a principal horticulture crop which has greater utility and market value. It is commercially the most viable and therefore important cash crop. But, the cultivation of saffron in Jammu and Kashmir doesn’t interest the growers anymore for a number of reasons like the decline in production, the presence of large intermediaries, etc.”

 

National Saffron Mission:

 

“Several measures were taken by the governments to boost saffron production in the state in the last few years. Under National Mission on Saffron about Rs 7.5 crore were earmarked as expenditure on saffron cultivation in 2017. That was just the state share, the central share was about Rs 21 crore. Saffron Park, Model Saffron Village and necessary irrigation system were incorporated to bolster the saffron production in Kashmir. In terms of production, saffron is an important cash crop possessing anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and healing nutritional properties. It is functional food with antioxidant, anti-microbial, and anti-diabetic characteristics. In addition saffron has learning and memory retaining characteristics coupled with anti-cholesterol and anti-triglycerides properties. It is an extremely vital source of nutritive diet, which provides a good scope for its market expansion, both in domestic and international scene, provided an area, production and marketing are remarkably improved. According to Nehvi et al. (2007) the indifference of the saffron growers towards a non- remunerative cash crop like saffron, which is currently facing area, production, and marketing problems, and the desire to diversify towards other crops, particularly orchard crops suitable for Wudars is one of the biggest threat facing this crop. The root cause for such a threat is a continuous low production and productivity levels, high labour costs, inconsistent climatic conditions, a large number of intermediaries who make the saffron market very much exploitative and above all lack of government support to improve production and marketing. No other crop that is suitable for Karewa lands is taken in the saffron lands as an alternative or buddy crop to supplement the grower’s income and improve his standard of living. This describes why a large percentage of the area which earlier was under this crop lies inattentive as fallow land. As a result, there is firm opposition to the provision of the legislation prohibiting any other use of these Karewa lands”.

 

Another Threat:

 

“Another threat to saffron market then and now is the deliberate brazen human action known as adulteration which has hit the business of saffron very hard. Internationally as well as nationally Kashmiri saffron is known for its quality which somehow is lost because of adulteration. As per reports saffron from Iran enters through legal and illegal ways, particularly from January which is why from this month onwards prices fall. Official figures for saffron imports reveal that very less quantity of saffron is imported but the actual quantity that reaches the Indian market is very much higher. In order to extract higher prices, Iranian saffron is mixed with Kashmiri saffron and sold in the name of Kashmiri saffron. Adulteration has demoralized the agricultural community in general and honest saffron traders in particular. It thus leads to a serious threat of consumer’s confrontation to anything being sold as Kashmiri saffron, which will decay the entire saffron industry. Adulterated saffron is sold to ill-informed travelers, visitors and tourists which destroys the image of the state and creates negative consequences for the industry.”

 

“Another threat to the saffron industry is reverse migration. People from Srinagar city are migrating to saffron fields in general and colonies in particular. The traditional saffron growing belt of Pampore is just 15 km south of Srinagar city. Pampore is mounting in all directions to provide accommodations to the rising population mainly due to migration from Srinagar city. Pampore is adjacent to the Srinagar-Jammu highway connecting the Kashmir valley with Jammu and Delhi, which makes it profitable for high profile people and real-estate developers to acquire land in this belt for prospective urbanization. Reverse migration is one of the main causes responsible for area shrinkage of saffron cultivation in Pampore”.

 

[Courtesy: daily Rising Kashmir, Srinagar, Kashmir, May 10, 2019].

 

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