One of the major cash crops of Kashmir Valley, Saffron is fighting a hard battle for its survival. The crop which has lost its charm is not paying enough dividends to the cultivators.
The local saffron cultivators say that before 1980 the productivity per kanal was 800 to 1000 grams but after 1980 it has declined to 100 gram per kanal. The reasons for the decline in the output can be due to climatic and environmental changes at global level with the effect on regional climatic conditions.
The delayed rain and snowfall can be cited as one of the reasons as saffron corms are not getting nourished in winter season to give better returns.
The decline in the sector is also due to lack of irrigation facilities. Saffron is cultivated mostly on Karewas where irrigational facilities are hardly available.
The absence of proper irrigation facilities is a major problem in the way of cultivation of saffron. Proper and regular humidity and presence of moisture is important for the nourishment and growth of seed corms to give better returns. Due to insufficient and irregular rainfall in the state due to global climatic changes the presence of Government irrigation facilities assumes more importance.
Secondly, the marketing and branding of Saffron is in an unorganized sector leading to the current scenario.
Saffron was such an important commodity for the people here that it used to be carried to various cities of the world in ancient times from Kashmir. This crop was carried along Silk Route by traders.
Though trade and commerce of the State went through many changes with the passage of time, yet cultivation and marketing of saffron never stopped. However, the process of raising the marketing of Kashmir saffron to international level has not yet made as much progress as was expected.
In this backdrop the government has now decided to collaborate with the Spice Board of India in improving and upgrading the saffron production and marketing.
The Spices Board and the Jammu and Kashmir Government have joined hands to boost production and promote high quality Kashmiri saffron in both domestic and global markets. The board and the state government are also going full throttle to secure GI (geographical indication) registration for authentication of high quality saffron from Kashmir.
The Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs has initiated the development of Codex standard for saffron at its 3rd session held in Chennai in February 2017.
The saffron trade would get a fillip by addressing the issue of post-harvest management, especially for drying and storage, to retain the colour, aroma and flavour of the spice.
Spices Board has always evinced keen interest in the promotion of saffron in both domestic and international markets, particularly in food, beverage, cosmaceutical, perfumeries and other segments to enhance the consumption through trade delegations, participation in international exhibitions and buyer-seller meets.
However, one thing which seems to be of great importance is that the production and marketing of fake saffron in the name of Kashmir saffron should come to an end. This is in our hands and the process should not be delayed.