Cosmetic measures won’t work
The state government is making plans to commission the State of Art India International Kashmir Saffron Trade Center (IIKSTC) set up at Dussu, Pampore.
The trade center was established owing to the fact that Jammu and Kashmir is the 2nd largest Saffron producing area in the world and is the only state in the country where saffron is being cultivated.
The trade center is part of the initiative for economic revival of J&K Saffron, National Mission on Saffron which was introduced during 2010-11 at an estimated cost of Rs 400 crores and 3715 hectares of saffron was proposed to be rejuvenated under the mission.
Under the mission, government has built State of Art International Kashmir Saffron Trade Center also known as Spice Park at Dussu, Pampore at a cost of Rs 37 crores. Latest machinery has been installed at stigma separation unit, Quality evaluation laboratory, besides packing machines and cold storage facilities have been constructed in the centre.
For e-marketing, Single Registration and Login for PAN India auction, easier access (via electronic media) for catalogues, My Catalogue and buying tracker. Auto bids and parallel bidding, easier access to market depth anonymity of buyers during the bidding process thereby ensuring fair price discovery, seamless and flexible payment system, 24×7 immediate delivery order are also the part of the center.
Kashmiri saffron is dubbed as the marvel of the saffron species. This prized cash crop is grown mainly in the fields of Pampore on the outskirts of Srinagar and its adjacent areas, Khrew, Ladhoo ,Chandhara, Samboora and Wuyan. However, due to the decrease in its production growers have been raising voices of concern.
The production of saffron has gone down due to the scarcity irrigation facilities and the apathy by government to boost production of saffron.
Saffron was originally sourced to Kashmir from Iran. Despite Iran continuing to remain the largest producer of the crop, Kashmiri saffron remains most expensive with a price range of Rs 2 to Rs 2.5 lakhs per 1000 grams.
However, the crop production is on a decline since 2005. In 2005, the production of saffron flower per Kanal, one-eighth of an acre, as 15-20 kilograms which reduced to 1-1.5 kg in 2017-18. It takes roughly 75,000 flowers to make half a kilo of saffron.
The area under saffron cultivation has declined from 5,707 hectare in 1996-97 to 3,785 hectare in 2014-15, bringing down the production from 3.13 kg per hectare to 1.88 kg per hectare in the last few years.
A matter of concern is that the saffron cultivation has declined and government has not been doing enough to boost its production. In 2010, the central government sanctioned Rs 371.18 crore to the National Saffron Mission to prevent the declining production of saffron in the valley. The cost of the project was then escalated to Rs 411 crore.
Besides, the inability of providing permanent irrigation system to the growers is also creating an impediment for any growth prospects for Saffron cultivation.