Kashmir saffron industry in dire straits
Farmers pitch for tough action against unscrupulous traders
Srinagar, Nov 29: The unabated smuggling of low-cost/low-quality saffron from Iran into India, and the murky role of some unscrupulous traders in the Valley facilitating production of fake saffron, the prized industry of Kashmir is currently finding itself in dire straits.
According to reports because of these reasons the Kashmir saffron prices have slid from Rs 2.7 lakh/kg in 2008 to Rs 1 lakh/kg this year.
“This is a catastrophe for this sector. Farmers, unable to cope with the production costs, will be quitting this sector soon,” rued Abdul Hameed, proprietor Kashmir Countryside Saffron Farms.
What has sounded the death knell of saffron industry in Kashmir, according to Hameed, is the ‘mixing’ of low quality Iranian saffron with Kashmiri saffron and branded as Kashmir saffron in Indian and international markets.
However, the saffron growers in the Valley believe it is only a handful of traders who are responsible for the rot. “What these few traders do is that they courier or transport Iranian saffron to Kashmir from Delhi and then mix Kashmiri saffron with it and pass off it as branded ‘Kashmir saffron. And our prices come down because they produce this in big quantities,” said Abdul Majeed Wani, President, Kashmir Saffron Growers’ Association.
According to reports after the recent people’s own initiatives and some police action, most of the traders involved in this illegal trade have shifted their base to Delhi.
“Some of these people are camping in areas like Khari Bawli and are duly supported by local traders there,” said a farmer, adding “J&K Police need to act now.”
Meanwhile, the J&K Police took into custody three persons who were allegedly carrying spurious saffron to outside state in the wee hours on Monday. Stakeholders from the saffron sector are pitching for tough action against the involved group to ‘nip the evil once and for all.’
“It is just a handful of greedy traders who are ruining this sector. But we want tough action against them, and that is why thousands of saffron growers will take to streets on Tuesday to express our angst,” said Wani.
There is wide skepticism about the police actions in curbing the illegal practices in saffron marketing. Some farmers in Pampore allege that these people offer big money to local police officials and go scot-free.
“What we demand now is to identify the persons who are behind these people. Since the Police now have the three main individuals who are part of the larger group, they can bust it easily,” said a member of Behbood Committee Pampore.
However, there is skepticism about the outcome of the latest arrests too. Locals say police is yet to file a case against the persons arrested this morning. However, police has a different version.
“We got a message from Jhajjar Kotli Police Station about three persons who, they said were moving in a suspicious condition. We sent our party there and brought them here,” SHO Police Station Pampore told Greater Kashmir.
However, he refuted to have made any recoveries and said the “three were in custody for questioning and no case was filed on prima facie evidence.”
While confirming the arrests, police officials at Police Station Jhajjar Kotli said the three persons were detained for questioning after found in ‘suspicious circumstances’. A police party from Police Station Pampore took them to Pampore in wee hours, an official at the Police Station said.
Amid all this, the silver lining is that the whole farming community is behind their associations to curb the menace.
“We have made it clear to the government that we grow saffron with our blood and we are ready to market it at one place where its quality is assured and where we get our due returns. We want the middleman system to vanish,” said a member of Behbood Committee Pampore.
Another good news is that the farming community has thrown their weight behind the efforts of SKUAST Kashmir’s Vice Chancellor to get Geographical Indicator for Kashmir saffron and support government’s efforts for establishing online pricing system and Saffron Mandi, where only pure saffron will be traded and branded.
“That is what we plan to do - starting with saffron melas in near future. Unscrupulous people will be naturally filtered out,” Dr Tej Pratap told a seminar of farmers on Thursday at SKICC.
Meanwhile, the farmers in the sector keep their fingers crossed.
Lastupdate on : Mon, 29 Nov 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 29 Nov 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 30 Nov 2010 00:00:00 IST
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