Saffron in Kashmir has been a ray of hope for the future of the state. Unfortunately, it does not seem to be managed appropriately by the authorities, which is turning hopes into uncertainties. Saffron production has dropped by around 60 percent during the recent years. Saffron producers were previously harvesting and producing 4 kgs of Saffron from each hectare of land cultivated with Saffron plant. However, the production level of Saffron has dropped to minimum level of 1 kg per hectare of land during the past few years which shows a production vacuum of 75 percent production level of Saffron has declined mainly due to lack of access of farmers to modern cultivation practices and equipment, lack of access to high quality Saffron plants, lack of awareness regarding modern procedures to increase the cultivation of Saffron plants, and information regarding the proper timing to irrigate the plants, mainly the irrigation process in the first stage after plants are cultivated.
The condition mentioned is really gloomy and requires proper attention and substantial measures by the authorities. The authorities must realize that the production of saffron in Kashmir has proved to be very productive and positive. It will bring a new ray of hope for Kashmir economy Moreover; Kashmir saffron has proved to be of high quality as well.
National Saffron Mission was launched by the Centre in 2010 to boost saffron production in the Kashmir valley. The government approved Rs 373 crore as part of the four-year mission (2010-14). To make National Saffron Mission (NSM) a success, the project time was later increased by two more years and an additional Rs 40 crore was given for reviving 800 hectares of saffron fields.
The project was designed at improving the saffron production by providing quality seeds and continuous water supply. The responsibility was assign in the hands of the Agriculture Department and the Mechanical Engineering Department, who were accountable for providing seeds and hiring contractors to lay down pipes, dig bore wells, and install sprinklers for water supply. Unfortunately the plan was not channelled by the government into significant action on the ground. Irrigation which is the key part of the scheme is now turning into the biggest reason behind its failure.
What State authorities and people require in this regard is proper implementations of their policies to change the scenario. The current decline in production should be considered seriously and efforts must be made to improve the production as per the potentials so that maximum outcomes can be achieved.
Bilal Ahmad Dar is PhD from the school of Business and Management, Jaipur National University Jaipur.