Saffron Mission: Facts and Figures
In response to the Guest Column by Maneka Gandhi on the subject of the dwindling Saffron production in Kashmir and the performance of Saffron Mission
FAROOQ A. LONE
Mrs. Maneka Gandhi, Hon’ble Member of Parliament has shown keen interest on the development and prospects of saffron in Kashmir in her exclusive article published in Daily Greater Kashmir on July 26, 2012. The article provides a detailed account of historical aspects of saffron. However, Mrs. Gandhi while commenting on the National Mission on Saffron, which is currently being implemented, has made references to the expenditure of the allocated money on “probably to building a huge Saffron Bhavan (as a memorial!) and to meetings across India - and off course delegation of bureaucrats to Spain and Iran to see how they grow saffron there”. She has also referred to lack of transfer of technology to the saffron growers. All this is far away from the truth. As such, it becomes imperative to set records straight and apprise the readers about the facts, and the figures of National Mission on Saffron.
National Mission on Saffron has been sanctioned by Government of India at a total cost of 372.18 crores, of which GoI Share is 288.06 crores and farmers’ share 84.12 crores. The Mission is proposed to be completed within a period of 4 years aimed at Economic Revival of J&K Saffron Sector.
Saffron cultivation in Kashmir has been facing a threat of extinction as the area under saffron cultivation has declined from 5707 Hectares in 1996 to 3715 Hectares in 2009-10. The productivity of saffron has also declined from 3.13 Kgs per hectare in 1998-99 to around 2 to 2.5 Kgs per hectare in the last few years. The production practices followed in Kashmir whereby farmers have traditionally adopted longer cycles of more than 15 years and sowing of unsorted corms of different grades together with senility of saffron fields and moisture stress are responsible for low production as against Iran and Spain where farmers use pluriannual method of cultivation for which saffron corms weighing 8 gms and above are left in the soil for two consecutive years after which corms are removed for fresh plantation and irrigated during the months of September and October using sprinkle technology.
In order to address the issues relating to decline in production and productivity and quality, SKUAST-K has developed relevant production, protection and post harvesting technologies to achieve production level of around 5 Kgs per hectare. The recommended interventions which are being popularized under National Mission on Saffron include:
• Initial corm treatment with recommended fungicides to control corm rot disease.
• Plantation of graded corms at Seed Rate of 50 quintals per hectare on raised beds with planting geometry of 20x10 cms for around five lac corms per hectare with a planting cycle of 4 to 5 years.
• Pre-flowering irrigation in September and October when there are no rains followed by post flowering irrigation in November to ensure yield gain by 40%.
• Integrated Nutrient Management (INM) using manure in the shape of farm yard manure 30 MTs per hectare, fertilizers of N-90 Kgs, P-60 Kgs, K-50Kgs per hectare and Vermi-compost 0.25 MTs per hectare to increase yield by improving Soil Health.
• Picking of two day old flowers in early morning hours and separation of stigma within 4 to 5 hours of picking.
• Traditional sun drying to be replaced by drying in solar / hot air dryers which can lead to increase in saffron recovery from 22 gms to 37 gms per kg of fresh flowers and improving quality by 60%.
• Establishment of Quality Control Laboratory, Grading and Packing Centre and Saffron Park for Quality Control certification, grading, packaging and marketing of the saffron.
This basically forms the scope and strategy under National Mission on Saffron. The Mission envisages following components for the Economic Revival of J&K saffron sector:
* Rejuvenation/replanting of existing Saffron area for improving Productivity.
* Improving soil health by INM, IPM and IDM practices.
* Standardization of quality corm production in public nurseries,
* Strengthening the Irrigation System
* Enhancing product quality through improved post-harvest handling
* Establishment of Weather Station
* Infrastructure Development
* Transfer of Technologies
* Quality testing and marketing
* Enhancement of Research and Extension capabilities
* Delineation of package of practices for Saffron
* Dissemination of weather forecasts, market alerts, etc through SMS
* Market intervention through e-trading and establishment of Electronic auction Centre
* Grading, packing and branding.
Under the component rejuvenation and replanting whole area of 3715 hectares presently under the cultivation shall be covered. For this purpose 75% of the total estimated cost of digging, sorting and relaying of corms at the rate of `6.75 lacs per hectares shall be borne by the project which simply put means that saffron growers will get an amount of `25, 300 per Kanal for rejuvenating their fields as per the package of practices recommended in the National Mission on Saffron.
Similarly through the components ‘under the programme’ Integrated Nutrient Management (INM), Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Integrated Disease Management (IDM) the project will bear 75 % of the cost of agriculture inputs in the shape of inorganic fertilizers / Vermi-compost, fungicides, rodenticides and manure.
Lack of irrigation facility is one of the main reasons for low productivity of saffron. To overcome this constraint, the Mission envisages establishing 128 tube-wells with 100% project support. Each tube-well is expected to irrigate 30 hectares of saffron area. Besides, 3715 sprinkle sets with distribution system shall be made available to the growers on 50% subsidy.
The traditional method of sun drying reduces the saffron quality due to degradation of colouring along with odour and bitterness imparted by pigments like crocin, saffranal and picrocrocin . Hot Air /Solar Dryers designed by SKUAST-K ensure high quality due to reduction in drying time from 27 to 54 hours to 3 to 4 hours. The Mission has component of providing these dryers on 50% subsidy to 8000 saffron growers which means one dryer for every two families.
Saffron is a labour intensive crop. Hoeing of saffron fields is labour intensive requiring around 80 man-days per hectare. The Mission envisages introduction of mechanized deweeding through weeders to facilitate quick weeding and hoeing. 500 weeders are proposed to be provided to the farmers on 50 % subsidy.
Establishment of Vermi-Compost Units shall facilitate adequate supply of organic manure at cheap rates. As such, the Mission proposes to establish 758 Vermi-compost Units for which subsidy at the rate of 30,000/- per unit will be provided. It is a well known fact that good quality saffron fetches right price in the International Market. At present, there is no mechanism to enforce adoption of quality standards and fix the price based on the quality at the farmer’s gate level. Good prices for high value crop like saffron can be ensured only by fixing quality standards & enforcing them. The menace of spurious saffron needs to be curbed by sending a strong message to the saffron traders in particular and consumers in general. Concerted approaches are needed to avoid practices of adulteration. As such, the Mission has component of establishing a Quality Control Laboratory with ISO certification in the Pampore area. The mission also proposes to establish a Saffron Park where facilities of Quality Testing, Grading, Packing and e-trading will be available. The Mission has also component of enhancing research and extension capability through SKUAST-K and CITH.
The National Mission on Saffron was sanctioned in August 2010. Being late season for Saffron sowing practically very little work was executed during the first year involving an expenditure of 84 lacs only. Actual work under the mission started during the last year (2011-12). As is true about the introduction of every new technology, farmers were apprehensive about the success of the package of practices recommended under the Mission as against the traditional practices followed by them. Extensive training –cum- awareness programs were held in the Saffron growing belts by the scientists of SKAST-K and SMS & Extension officers of the Agriculture Department. After consistent motivation through awareness camps, 363 hectares of saffron land, covering around 4000 beneficiaries, have been rejuvenated in 2011. Extension staff of the Department worked strenuously during the sowing season catering individual farmers to ensure implementation of the recommended technologies as envisaged under the Mission. The whole process has been recorded in video and still photographic modes to ensure transparency. The results of the new technology were evident as the growers who participated in the rejuvenation process started getting Saffron produce from the first year itself as against second year or third year in the traditional practice. Apprehension caused by various rumor mongers regarding taking over the land/produce by the Government were totally removed when the incentives were distributed among the beneficiaries through payees account cheques in Public Functions. An amount of 17.80 Crores has been distributed among the beneficiaries for rejuvenating the saffron area as per new practice in 2011. This has resulted in greater enthusiasm among the growers and an area of more than 1000 hectares has been registered for rejuvenation this year (2012-13). The list of beneficiaries 2011-12 and prospective beneficiaries 2012-13 has been published in local news papers and is also available on the official website of the Department www.diragrikmr.nic.in. Critical inputs for improving soil health have been provided to the farmers amounting to ` 0.97 Crores in 2011-12.
The work on digging of bore-wells has started and more than 40 wells have already been dug which will be harnessed during the current year itself. Sixty two (62) weeders have been provided to Saffron growers. 416 Vermi-compost units have too been established.
The Mission has also a component of production of planting material in Public Sector Nursery (PSN) at Allowpora (Shopian), Beerwar (Kishtwar) and Konibal over an area of 82 hectares, of which an area of 23.2 hectares have so for been covered. The corms harvested from these nurseries will be utilized for area expansion in traditional as well as non-traditional areas.
The component on establishment of Quality Control Laboratory and Saffron Park is being implemented by National Horticulture Board. Land for the purpose has been identified at village Dusso in Pampore and fencing of the said land is in progress. The Conceptual Plan prepared by National Horticulture Board has recently been approved in the State Level Sanctioning Committee meeting headed by Chief Secretary and it is expected that the tendering process shall be started by National Horticulture Board very soon.
The above details make it amply clear that National Mission on Saffron has now taken-off and will be fully implemented in next two years. The satisfying thing is that the new technology has already gone to the field and has been received well by the growers. Irrigation component and Saffron Park shall decidedly have a long lasting effect on production and marketing of Kashmiri Saffron. Once the Mission is fully implemented production, productivity and marketing of saffron will definitely touch an all time high.
Author is Director Agriculture, Kashmir. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lastupdate on : Fri, 17 Aug 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 17 Aug 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 18 Aug 2012 00:00:00 IST
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