Saffron growers decry official apathy, demand relief for crops damaged by 2014 floods

BILAL HABIB
PAMPORE: Many saffron growers in Pampore area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district have alleged that the government was ignoring them by not providing the much-needed relief to the farmers affected by last year’s flood.
The farmers said that most of the seeds were damaged in the floods as more than 320 hectares of land remained under water for several days in September last year.
“The saffron corm is susceptible to moisture and decomposes quickly if it comes in contact with water. Last year, the corm spread over hundreds of hectares of land remained under water for many days and was damaged to the fullest,” said Mohammad Shafi, a farmer.
He said that last year he was able to produce only 120 grams of saffron as against 1200 grams which he claimed was his produce in 2013. Haji Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, a farmer from the Pampore town, said that many farmers in the area were planning to convert the land into paddy fields.
“Conversion of saffron land to other purposes would make the saffron Mission a failure.” President of Saffron Growers Marketing Association, Abdul Majid Wani, said that government has failed to compensate affected farmers “many of whom are solely dependent on the saffron produce.”
“90 percent of the crop was damaged last year and this year almost 50 percent crop was damaged due to untimely rains,” he said, adding that government needs to be serious if it wants the “saffron flowers should bloom in the valley”.
He further said that as the crop has started giving diminishing returns, people were converting the land to commercial, residential and other agricultural and horticultural practices.
While acknowledging the fact that more than 80 percent of the crop in the valley was damaged due to rains, chief agriculture officer, Pulwama, Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din said that they have forwarded the estimates of the damage to higher authorities.
“Our estimates reveal that the farmers incurred a loss of Rs 400 crore in total. Nearly 837 hectares of saffron land was affected. However, efforts are being to compensate these farmers,” he said. He assured that the farmers will be compensated as soon as the money is approved for the purpose.