Saffron production touches decade high of 13.36 MTs

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After years of decline, the saffron production in Kashmir is finally seeing a turnaround as, in 2020, the annual yield of world’s costliest spice reached the decadal high of 13.3 metric tons.

The journey has been remarkable as in 2011-12 the annual yield of saffron had touched a low of 1.5 MTs and many experts warned of its imminent extinction.

Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha termed it a “great achievement”.

“Great Achievement: Annual yield of the world’s costliest spice, saffron, cultivated in Kashmir has crossed 13 metric tonnes for the first time in the last 10 years,” the LG tweeted.

The production was achieved on a cultivable area of 3715 hectares (73440 kanal) in 2020-21.

In 2019, the department of agriculture had recorded a total saffron production of 12.495 MTs.

With the increase in the total yield, the productivity has increased to 4.92 kg per hectare in 2020 from 4.07 kg per hectare in 2019.

Talking to Greater Kashmir, Director Agriculture Kashmir, Chowdhary Muhammad Iqbal said, “Saffron is Kashmir’s heritage crop, which a decade back was witnessing decline in production and now it has seen a turnaround due to introduction of the National Saffron Mission.”

“In 2020, Kashmir’s saffron production has witnessed highest production recorded in the last decade. It was because of multiple factors. First, the snowfall in November last year played an important role. Secondly, the rejuvenation of land and healthy corms supplied to farmers under the National Saffron Mission helped in a big way to boost production,” he said. “Kashmir’s saffron was facing a tough time before the introduction of National Saffron Mission. Before the introduction of this mission, our production was 1.8 kg per hectare. It is on a decline now.”

Iqbal said saffron was currently being cultivated in three districts of Kashmir – Pulwama, Budgam and some parts of Srinagar.

“The total land under saffron is 3715 hectares of which 2500 hectares is under the National Saffron Mission. In the coming years, all the saffron land will be rejuvenated,” he said urging people to stop conversion of saffron land for other purposes.

Iqbal said the GI tag had certainly helped the growers to get better rates in the Indian and international markets.

“The lacha variety which would cost Rs 80 per gram was sold at Rs 175 to Rs 185 per gram this year. Similarly, the prices of the Mogra variety shot up to Rs 228 per gram this year from Rs 120 per gram in 2019. Overall, the farmers benefited with the introduction of GI tag on Kashmir saffron,” he said.

Kashmiri saffron, which earlier this year got a Geographic Indication tagging is of superior quality because of higher concentration of crocin, a carotenoid pigment that gives saffron its colour and medicinal value. Its crocin content is 8.72 percent compared to the Iranian variant’s 6.82 percent. Kashmir saffron has a darker colour and enhanced medicinal value.