GoI mulls to procure saffron, walnut directly from growers in Jammu and Kashmir

Government of India is mulling to directly procure walnut and saffron from the growers across Kashmir.  The proposed scheme would be on the lines of Market Intervention Scheme (MIS)—launched by the GoI—for apple growers earlier this year.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently said at an event in New Delhi that the scheme would ensure that growers get a better price for their yield. “The government has sought help from National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) to roll out the new scheme,” a NABARD official told Greater Kashmir.

“As per directions of the Finance Ministry, modalities are being worked out. A team of our officials is scheduled to visit the Valley next month in connection with this proposed scheme,” the NABARD official added.  

“The NABARD has been asked by Finance Ministry to provide ground -level facts regarding these agri-products. The ministry has also asked for figures, such as production quantity and surplus produce of saffron and walnut. It has also asked for appropriate price bracket which this harvest deserves,” the official said.

He said the GoI in this proposed market intervention scheme wants to also include the apricot grown in Ladakh. “The ministry had also proposed to bring peaches under this scheme but we have instead pitched pear (babugosha) to be provided MIS platform,” the official said.

Meanwhile, reacting to the development walnut growers said if they are offered handsome prices, the proposed scheme can prove to be a breather for the local walnut industry, which is pitted against intense competition from imported walnut, especially California walnut and levy of Goods and Services Tax.

President Dry Fruit Association Kashmir Haji Bahadur Khan told Greater Kashmir that walnut growers who suffered 30-40 percent losses to walnut trees due to recent snowfall “desperately need some sort of government support.”

“A marketing platform such as MIS can help eradication of the middleman so that walnut grower who has been at the receiving end gets a good price for the produce,” Khan said.

Saffron growers said that government support in any form to revive the loss-hit saffron industry must be welcomed. After expecting a bumper crop this year, growers were hit by season’s first snowfall on 7 November, which caused 40 percent drop in annual production.

 “We were expecting whopping 200 percent production this year. But our expectations were dashed by the snow,” said Abdul Majid Wani, president All Saffron Growers Association.

Another grower said the National Saffron Mission launched by Government of India in 2010 to rejuvenate the saffron crop has been unable serve its purpose. “The Mission was extended on several occasions but inter-departmental wrangling between Agriculture Department and Mechanical Engineering Department made the National Saffron Mission ineffective,” he added.