Even after five years the Rs 400 crore National Saffron Mission–centrally sponsored scheme–aimed to increase the saffron production is in limbo, the production has decreased to the level where it was before its launch.
Statistics of the Safrron production over the years paint a dismal picture of the mission. The production in 2009-2010 was 9.46 metric tonnes, and five years later in 2015-16 after implementation of Saffron Mission, production stands as 9.6 metric tonnes. Even in the year 2010-11, when the project was launched, the production was 11.5 metric tonnes.
This all runs in contrary to the objective of the project, "It (Saffron Mission) was expected to double the production and productivity of saffron in the state," read achievements of 2009-2010 on website of agriculture production department.
The National Saffron Mission, a highly ambitious Rs 371.18 crore project was sanctioned by the Government of India in 2010 to prevent the dwindling production of the saffron in the Valley. "Initially the project was approved for five years and was later extended by two more years. The cost of the project has escalated to Rs 411 crores during all these years," said the officials of Agriculture department.
Official sources told Greater Kashmir that 60 per cent of the total amount sanctioned under the project has already been spent. But Saffron growers accused concerned officials of being insensitive towards the 'golden crop', resulting in decline in its production.
President of the All J&K Saffron Growers Development Cooperative Marketing Association Abdul Majeed Wani said, "Officials don't even know how to spend funds. There is a lack of will. It has come to our knowledge that in 2014 alone, the state returned Rs 40 crore to the Central government under the mission," he said.
He said the rejuvenation of 1,800 hectare of saffron fields had also suffered due to non- implementation of the mission.
The saffron is cultivated in Pampore, Srinagar, Budgam and Kishtwar. Before 1985, saffron was cultivated on 5800 hectares of land in JK. Now the area under cultivation has reduced from 5,707 hectares in 1996 to 3,715 hectares in 2009-10 and presently it is 3, 674 hectares, official data reveals.
Chief Agriculture Officer Pulwama, Ghulam Mohiudin Bhat blamed excess rainfall for decline in Saffron production. "The 2014 September floods led to the decline in production of saffron," Bhat said.
A comparative analysis of the data of decline in saffron land and decline in production reveals that former has declined by 1.10 percent only and production by 16 percent in the same period.