Good rainfall and GI tag attempting to bring saffron production back to its glory days in Kashmir

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Pic by Mohammad Amiri Unsplash

Good rains this season and GI tag for Kashmiri saffron has encouraged farmers in Jammu and Kashmir to produce saffron again. Many Kashmir farmers have been deterred from engaging in saffron cultivation as a result of the invasion of cheap Iranian saffron into Indian and international markets. Iranian saffron is up to 48% cheaper than Kashmiri saffron, and it controls 95% of the global market. 

To conserve high-quality Kashmiri saffron, the Geographical Indication Registry approved GI tagging on the saffron with GI number 635 in 2020. The majority of producers had increased yield last year, because of favorable weather conditions. In August, September, and October, saffron requires rainfall, which the valley received on time. Producers are anticipating a bigger harvest next year. 

Saffron cultivation is a significant contribution to the Union Territory’s agriculture industry, which employs over 80% of the population. The last time Kashmir produced 15 metric tonnes of saffron annually was in 1996 when the average yield was 2.80 kg per hectare and the farmed area was 5,707 hectares. 

Saffron is grown mostly in three districts: Pulwama, Srinagar, and Budgam, and covers 3,715 hectares. Because of the increased percentage of crocin, a carotenoid pigment that gives saffron its color and medicinal benefits, Kashmiri saffron is of a better grade. It contains 8.72 percent crocin, contrasted to 6.82 percent in the Iranian variant, giving it a deeper color and more medicinal value. 

Saffron output in Kashmir fell by 35% (10.40 tonnes) till 2010, as the planted area reduced to just 3,715 hectares. The Ministry of Agriculture launched the Rs 400.11 crore National Saffron Mission after realizing that the world’s most expensive spice was becoming extinct in Kashmir. While the mission was unable to revive the farmland, the government was successful in expanding saffron production in Kashmir.  According to the Trade Promotion Council of India, India was the fourth-largest importer of Iranian saffron before 2020, with $18.30 million in saffron imported from Iran. The Iranian variety, which sold for Rs 1 lakh per kg, influenced the price of high-quality Kashmiri saffron, which dropped from Rs 2-3 lakh in 2007 to Rs 1 lakh per kg. 

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