Kashmir's Saffron Fields Are Shrinking Fast & So Is The Produce

Saffron is one of the high value, low volume cash crops predominantly cultivated in the Karewas of Pampore, 15 km south of Srinagar city, capital of Jammu and Kashmir. But the saffron fields are shrinking fast and so is the produce. Greater Kashmir lensman Mubashir Khan photographs the villagers plucking the flowers through a maze of saffron beds in Pampore.

Text by Er Shah Khalid
Jammu and Kashmir tops the list of the saffron growing states in India. In India out of the total 5,707 hectares of land used for saffron cultivation, 4,496 hectares lay exclusively in Jammu and Kashmir. But the saffron fields that earn handsome revenue for the state are fast shrinking.
Saffron is one of the high value, low volume cash crops predominantly cultivated in the Karewas of Pampore, 15 km south of Srinagar city, capital of Jammu and Kashmir
Kashmiri saffron is seen as the legend of saffron species and is valued all over the world for its fine quality, for which people of Pampore are fond of saying that there is a certain magical element in the soil of Pampore, which helps the flowers to bloom.
The saffron cultivation has become less profitable and even unproductive in a short period. 
As per the opinions of local farmers, climate change is a major but not the sole factor affecting saffron fields in the area that cause degradation of saffron productivity. 
The conversion of saffron land into residential and commercial apartments, which is violation of sec-133A of Land Revenue Act is a major concern. Besides, dozens of industries on the outskirts of Pampore have wreaked havoc with the saffron fields.
The absence of proper housing policy in J&K and lack of irrigation facilities, counseling by the Agri-department, proper soil testing and improper grading are impacting the saffron fields to worrying levels.
Media reports suggest that the annual production has come down from 16 metric tons to 6 metric tons. This saffron is most expensive by weight and sells for anywhere between 2.5 lakh to 3 lakh a Kilogram.
There is a need for concerted and collaborative efforts to save this ”golden’ crop. Authorities must provide technical knowhow and high yield seeds, so that growers can abandon the primitive modes of cultivation.