Valley loses 1.5 lakh kg saffron market in India to Iran
Srinagar, Sept 23: Given its huge demand in national and international markets, experts here insist upon increasing the saffron production in Kashmir.
Experts said if proper direction was given to this sector, it could become one of the major foreign exchange earning industries in the Valley, besides giving a boost to the indigenous food processing industry.
“Kashmir saffron industry is worth Rs 200 crore at present. If we convert 8000 kgs (current annual production) into 30,000 kgs, you can imagine how much income can be generated,” Dr Zain-ul-Abidin, president, Kashmir Chamber of Food Processing Industry, said.
As per the experts, the saffron besides being used as an essential ingredient in some medicines, sweets, dishes, etc, has a huge market in India for it is used there for temple offerings.
“That is why saffron has got a huge demand in India, especially in Gujarat and Mumbai. In fact, India is one of the best markets in the world for saffron and especially in South East Asia,” said Abidin.
“Saffron has got so much demand in India that we don’t need to look for other markets abroad,” he added.
Experts said there was an aggregate annual demand of 1.5 lakh kgs of saffron in India, which was mainly being catered to by Iran. “Kashmir is the only place in India, which grows saffron. But since the production is too low to cater to this huge market, India imports the product from Iran,” said Abidin.
“In India, they have tried to produce saffron, like in Sri Gangagar in Uttar Pradesh and Shimla, but it did not grow there,” said Noor-ul-Amin, proprietor Amin-bin-Khaliq, dealing in saffron for past 35 years.
Experts said saffron in Kashmir has come from the Middle East. The unprocessed saffron of Kashmir is locally called Kong, where as the processed one is called Mogra. “Kashmiri Mogra saffron is considered as the world’s best saffron for its distinctive long, flat, silky threads with a dark red color, extraordinary aroma, powerful coloring and flavoring capabilities,” said an expert.
Saffron is the most expensive spice. Experts say the prices of saffron particularly that of Mogra have undergone tremendous increase in past two years.
“In 2007 Mogra was sold at Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 per kg, where as it has now gone as high as Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 3 lakh per kg in both national and international markets,” said Abidin.
He said there was a dire need to give thrust to market-driven products including the saffron, which could also help in eradication of unemployment to a large extent.
“But unfortunately this sector has been ignored both by masses and government,” he added.
Experts said there was a lack of will in farmers to produce saffron. They said some well-off farmers were now concentrating more on trading rather than production of saffron.
“So we need to make farmers aware, especially those with small land holdings, that their income can increase manifold by growing the saffron crop,” said Abidin.
“The Spices Board of India should intervene into the matter and direct the Agricultural University here to aware the farmers in this direction, including those as well, who do not possess much land and do not know if it is suitable for saffron production,” he said.
He said farmers should also come forward and so should the government through its institutions. “After they produce saffron, the farmers can forward it to processors, who can sell it outside after processing. So both will be benefited this way,” he said.
Lastupdate on : Wed, 23 Sep 2009 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 23 Sep 2009 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 24 Sep 2009 00:00:00 IST
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