J&K Government on Wednesday admitted it has failed to regulate constructions in Saffron belts of Kashmir, one of the main reasons for fast shrinking of the prized spice fields in Kashmir.
Winding up the discussion on the demand of grants for Agriculture and allied sectors in the Legislative Assembly, Minister for Agriculture Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura drew the attention of the House towards implementation of the Rs 371 crores National Saffron Mission in J&K.
Under the Mission, the Minister said, farmers are to be provided sprinkle sets for irrigation of the saffron fields. The lack of irrigation facility is seen as one of the main reasons for low productivity of saffron.
"But the areas where the Saffron Mission is to be implemented, huge buildings have come up… there are colonies being developed in an around the saffron fields," said the Minister.
The Minister however asserted that the saffron production has gone up from 2.5 kilograms to 4.5 kilograms per hectare under the Mission.
He said in countries like Spain the production has touched around 30 kilograms per hectare. "We are mulling to rope in expertise from Spain to see how the saffron production can be boosted," said Hanjura.
The Mission, a highly ambitious Rs 371.18 crore project was sanctioned by Government of India in 2010 to give a flip to Saffron production in the Valley. Initially the project was approved for five years but owing to delay in implementation the Mission was extended by two more years. The cost of the project has escalated to Rs 411 crores.
"We are committed to take the Saffron production to new heights," said Hanjura. "It is expected that this year after installing sprinkler irrigation at 60 places the production may touch up to 10 Kgs/hectare," The minister said, adding Samboora village was being developed as a Model Saffron Village.
Enumerating various initiatives taken by the Department to boost agriculture production in the State the Minister said major thrust of the Department would be on timely utilization of funds which come through various Centrally Sponsored Schemes.
"We are not only deficient in food production but also severely handicapped in fodder production. Given the allocation of funds in the budget proposals, only limited objectives and outcomes can be achieved," said the Minister.
He said the Government would lay focus on revival of Agro Industries sector by giving boost to vegetable, Mushroom, Apiculture and protected cultivation through innovative measures.
The Minister said the Government was focused on re-orienting NABARD funding system towards agriculture and would access other bilateral and multi-lateral funding mechanisms through Government of India.
"Steps are being taken for implementation of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayi Yojana from this year," he said.
The Minister said shrinking of agriculture land owing to construction of housing colonies, educational and medical institutions, expansion of Highways should have given a set back to the agricultural sector but the production was showing a steady growth owing to various initiatives taken by the Government.
The Minister said specific initiatives have been taken for development of Basmati, Mushkbudji Villages and saffron Village.
Regarding the sericulture sector, the Minister said efforts were on to increase cocoon production. He said the cocoon production in 2008-09 was just 738 MTs which has now crossed 1000 MTs and was expected to increase further.
"Our focus is on post-cocoon sector to establish reeling units for local consumption and production of silk yarn," he said.
Later, the House passed grants of Agriculture, Horticulture, Floriculture and Cooperative Departments, for 2016-17, which were moved by the Minister, amounting to Rs 1959.88 crores, with voice vote.