Holistic approach in a mission mode is needed

Post COVID-19, political economy of saffron industry in Jammu and Kashmir

Political economy is a matter of political power distribution and economic power distribution. It also concerns how political and economic power distribution affects the directions of development and policies of saffron industry that depend upon them. It concerns the interface between political and economic power influencing the growth and development prospects of saffron industry in our economy.  It also has a great bearing upon the problems and prospects of this very industry.

A good link between political and economic power will create a good political economy and vice versa. Similarly, a good liaison between political and economic processes involved in the saffron industry will carve out a good political economy of the saffron industry and vice versa.

History is witness to the fact that there is a very bad link between political and economic power in Jammu and Kashmir which is why our economy has a bad political economy with many bad characteristics including political instability and market asymmetry. There is a sorry state of affairs in almost all sectors of our economy and saffron is no exception. COVID-19 aggravated these bad settings.

The COVID-19 pandemic is no less than a depression phase of a business cycle and it has put a ceiling upon most of the economic and political activities in almost every economy. It has further dipped the saffron production, productivity, and marketing. Shocks always dampen the economy and the role of the political economy cannot be neglected in the phase of shocks such as COVID-19.

Therefore, the impact of a bad political economy post COVID-19 must be seen for all important industries in Jammu and Kashmir including Saffron. Economic processes in the saffron industry are everywhere political in the sense that most of the activities of saffron farming right from the point of production to the point of distribution and marketing require political considerations.

There is no denying the fact that it is due to the bad political economy of Jammu and Kashmir in general and saffron industry in particular that the National Saffron Mission failed significantly.

There are many reasons responsible for bad the political economy of the saffron industry in Jammu and Kashmir. The main reasons are: political instability, dominance of brokers or Dalals in saffron trade and marketing, and absence of information system or market intellect for saffron in Jammu and Kashmir.

There is asymmetric information on the part of both buyers as well as sellers of saffron in the market thereby degrading the quality of the saffron traded. Saffron growers are not aware of the ruling prices of their produce prevailing in the markets.

Therefore, they have to accept any un-remunerative price for their produce as offered by middlemen or traders. There is very high input cost as a result of the presence of inefficiency among the factors of production in saffron etc. Consequently, Dalals and local traders exploit the growers by buying 12 grams as 1 Tolla and sell it as 10 grams as 1 Tolla to the saffron dealers, firms, retailers/ wholesalers and end users/consumers.

Moreover, there is lack of Standardization, Certification and Quality Assurance and little government support to the saffron growers, saffron firms, saffron dealers and associations on accessing new technologies for quality production, processing and packaging of saffron.

Accordingly, there is a technological gap which cannot be reduced unless sincere efforts are made to disseminate the technical know-how from research institutions to the saffron farms. Also, there is a communication gap between the saffron growers and agricultural scientists in Jammu & Kashmir which is one of the important causes responsible for the poor saffron quality, adulteration, and low production.

Since, there is poor interaction between political and economic powers in saffron economy together with poor education level of the growers, and less exposure,  majority of the growers don’t have faith on the advices and recommendations of the agricultural experts which reflects that the experts may not be carrying their services up to the expectations of the growers.

For maintaining the political economy of the saffron industry and tackling all problems related to saffron production and marketing, it is important to adopt a holistic approach in a mission mode, covering all saffron aspects (economic and political) of production, distribution, and marketing.

Dr. Binish Qadri, Assistant Professor, Cluster University Srinagar. 

Suzain Khan, Student, 3rd Sem, UG Economics, Cluster University Srinagar, Malik Daniyal, student, 3rd sem, Satyawati College, Delhi, Meesum Abaas, Student, 3rd Sem, UG economics, Cluster University srinagar are part of the overall study.

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