Srinagar: Saffron production this year in Kashmir has seen an increase of 30 per cent due to good weather conditions, timely rainfall and natural multiplication in carom, Saffron Association of Kashmir Chairman Abdul Majid Wani has said.
Farmers including women and children are busy in Pampore and adjacent areas harvesting the crop these days.
“The production also increased this year due to natural multiplication of carom which has become the joyous season for the growers in Pampore. This natural process would help in increased production in saffron next year for the growers,” Wani told UNI.
As the harvesting of the crop in south Kashmir is in full bloom, there is tremendous demand from buyers from the other parts of the country and internationally too.
This year, the rate of ‘Lacha’ quality saffron has been settled at Rs 185 per gram while ‘Morga’ quality has been settled at Rs 240 per gram at Kashmir’s Park Pampore.
“The growers earlier were very much disappointed due to low rates in the market. But since the Kashmir Saffron Park came into existence and has decided rates on a high note, the farmers started taking more interest in cultivation of saffron’’ Wani added.
There is a huge demand for saffron from all around the world since it gets the geographical indication (GI) tag — a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.
It is very difficult to fulfil the demands as required by various buyers in India and other parts of the world this year, he said.
He said this year huge advance demands was received for saffron. “It is impossible to complete the orders for everyone. Last year, Lulu International group of Dubai had put an order for 30 kg of saffron and this year they have also placed a huge order of saffron.”
There are 30-40 Indian as well as international big buyers registered at Kashmir Saffron Park.
All are demanding 50 to 100 kg and 200 kg of saffron this time. TATA group has sought 150 kg of saffron in their first order this year, which is very difficult to settle in one go, Wani claimed.
He said a meeting with the TATA delegation was still going on and “we are likely to provide them up to 60 kg of saffron this time”.
He said last year a company from Switzerland purchased saffron from the Kashmir Saffron Park and this year also they have placed a big order.
He said it was possible to provide them 150 kg of saffron in one go if all the growers of the Pulwama belt sold their crop at Kashmir Saffron Park.
Although the number of saffron sellers increased this year compared to last year, still a huge number of growers are evading the Park.
He said the Kashmir Saffron Association has this year decided that if any grower needs advance money and brings his produce at the Park, he will be provided through a Farmer Producer Organization (FPO).
He said buyers purchasing a gram of saffron from us for Rs 240 are selling it for Rs 500 to Rs 600 in the market.
Earlier, Iranian saffron was being sold in the name of Kashmir saffron which is not possible now after its recognition.
About 30,000 families in the Pampore area are associated with saffron cultivation. The town’s saffron is considered to be of superior quality because of the presence of a higher concentration of crocin content – which gives the saffron its darker colour and medicinal value.
More villagers of the upper Pampore area including Pokhribal, Nagander, Bathen and Zazpakren have also started to produce the crop in wasteland after its good outcome and monetary benefits.
The government also provided Rs 20,000 to each farmer under the Saffron Mission scheme for cultivation of the crop.
Wani said the Kashmir Saffron Association demands the completion of an irrigation facility which has been left half way. This has also been brought into the notice of the Lt Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha.
This year the weather remained favourable and timely rainfall helped in growth of the crop. “But I cannot say what will happen in future as the climate is rapidly changing all over.”
He said the climatic change could become fatal if the irrigation project is no completed.
“We have also demanded a complete ban on exporting the saffron seeds to other states of India so that the farmers can first become self-sufficient in producing the crop”, he added.
Wani said there is a government proposal to make available land of about 50 kanal for turning that into a saffron seed nursery and several farmers have agreed to have this.
Kashmir’s saffron farmers have also demanded fencing the whole land of saffron in Pampore area to save the fields from porcupines which eats the flowers at night.
The porcupine is mostly attacking in Gundbal, Shaar, Khrew, Ladhoo, Bathen and Nagandar areas. Some farmers have fenced their land at their own cost.