“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Sajad reports on the ailing saffron industry

(Mr. Sajad Kralyari, 28, was born in Kralyar, Srinagar. He had his early schooling at the General Public Mission (GPM) School, and his higher secondary education from the Government High School. He completed his B.Sc. from the Gandhi Memorial College, Rainawari, Srinagar, and Master’s degree in journalism from the Media Educational Research Centre (MERC), University of Kashmir in 2008. He subsequently did a brief stint in New Delhi before returning as a correspondent for the Rising Kashmir, working on business and economy related stories.)

Agriculture Department Awaits NSM Take Off

National Saffron Mission (NSM) may be aiming to revive the ailing saffron sector, but growers allege that it is the “nexus” between administration and the land brokers which thrstens the very survival of the colourful spice.

There has been illegal construction on at least 1500 kanals of saffron land over the past 20 years. This has impacted the saffron productivity, the growers alleged while interacting with the media persons at Pampore.

The interactive meet with the growers and the agriculture department was organized by Press Information Bearu Srinagar Tuesday.

The official production figures show that saffron area has gone down from about 5707 hectares to just 3785 hectares and the productivity has gown down 3.13 kg/ha to 2.50 kg/ha in the last few years.

“Though, the construction on saffron land is prohibited under land revenue act section 133 (a) (c) but this act is being violated by the government administration itself as they are in league with the land brokers,” said another grower, Bashir Ahmad Malik.

“We have taken up this matter with the higher authorities and filed a writ petition with the high court but to no avail,” said Malik who is also an advocate.

The top officials from the agriculture department also second the villagers’ allegation that illegal construction has shrunk the saffron cultivable land.

“There is a deep nexus between the land brokers and the government administration who are allowing the construction to come up at saffron land. The saffron cultivable land has considerably reduced due to these illegal constructions,” said one of the officials from the agriculture department.

“We are helpless and can do nothing to stop these illegal constructions. We have to give guidelines to the farmers for improving their production and productivity,” said the official.

Notably, the Central government has approved a plan of Rs 371.18 crore under National Saffron Mission Programme for four years which includes Rs 286.06 crore as government of India’s share and Rs 85.12 crore as farmers share for the revival of saffron production in Jammu and Kashmir.

Under the 4-year saffron mission, the government of India would bore 128 tube wells. Also 3715 sprinkler sets with distribution system shall be made available to the farmers with 50% subsidy over an estimated cost of Rs 5000 per set, whereas 82 sets shall be installed at government farms with 100% project share.

The detailed project report for saffron mission show that each tube well would cater to the needs for irrigating 30 hectares of saffron area.

However, efforts shall be made to create permanent water source for saffron areas adjacent to river Jehlum near Patal and Lathipora by strengthening present Lathipora lift irrigation scheme.
“The research shows that the lack of irrigation facilities, poor techniques adopted by the growers and lack of post harvest management has reduced in low productivity and poor quality. The saffron mission will go a long way in helping farmers enhance quality and productivity of Saffron,” said Seed Pathologist Farooq Ahamd Mandoo who was also present in the interactive meet with the media persons.

The saffron mission also seeks to develop appropriate systems for organized marketing, quality-based pricing of saffron and for formulating direct transactions between growers, traders, exporters and industrial agencies.