Pampore, July 3: Farmers in saffron rich Pampore area in south Kashmir's Pulwama district are facing a peculiar problem due to the presence of myriads of porcupines in their saffron farms, sprawling over hundreds of Kanals.
With quills covering its body, the rodent comes out of its burrow during night and damages the saffron corms, particularly during winters.
According to the farmers, porcupines damage a significant percentage of crop each year.
Aftab Ahamd, a safron grower and trader from Lethpora area told Greater Kashmir that they lost around 15 to 20 percent planted corms to the rodent every year.
The porcupines damage the corms in Samboora, Dusoo, Khrew, Lethpora, Dusoo and Chandhara villages.
The farmers, who cultivate the world's poshest spice have almost no idea how to keep the rodent at bay.
"We don't know about any concrete means to keep the rodent away. Even the department of wild life appears to be clueless in this regard", said another farmer.
Irshad Ahmad, a progressive farmer and member Kissan Advisory Board said that the rodent remains more active from December to March and causes much damage to the planted corms during this period.
"Over the last few years, we faced a double whammy of climate change and porcupines", said Ahmad.
He said that both the Department of Wildlife and SKUAST must show some seriousness towards the issues faced by the hundreds of saffron growers in the Valley.
Around 3,500 hectares of land is under the saffron cultivation in Kashmir. However, over the last many years due to the constant decline of yield, many farmers shifted to other high yielding crops like apples.
According to official figures, 60 percent of the land under saffron cultivation has shrunk over the past two decades.
Mohamamd Mudasir Bhat, a wild life official said that the rodent is usually found in Karewa land and is purely herbivores.
"It forages for shrubs, corms, tree barks etc" Bhat said.
He said that garlic spray and planting Iris hookeriana and Iris kashmiriana could keep the rodent away.