Dry spell, stalled irrigation project hits saffron crop

Dry spell, stalled irrigation project hits saffron crop

PAMPORE: The prized saffron crop has taken a hit this year because of the dry spell for the past three months. Growers in Pampore area, the main region for saffron cultivation, say that inadequate rainfall has been a persistent problem for the crop but this year the dry spell has lasted much longer.
“We used to pick the first harvest around October 21, but the flowering is yet to take place this year,” a grower said. He also said that the crop has lost its “glory” and commercial value that it once had.
The economy of Pampore is centred on saffron. Growers accuse the government of being callous towards the crop which is part of Kashmir’s heritage.
The much-hyped National Saffron Mission has not met the expectations of growers as the irrigation guaranteed under the mission has not started so far.
Saffron Growers Association president Abdul Majid Wani told Kashmir Reader that it was “callousness” on the part of administration, especially of Mechanical Engineering Department (MED), “which did not put ample efforts in supervising the irrigation project”.
“We were expecting the sprinklers to be made functional this year,” Wani said. He said that 40 sprinklers are almost ready and only require minor machinery, “but the MED did not take any serious initiative”.
Director of Agriculture, Kashmir, Altaf Aijaz Andrabi said the dry spell has proved catastrophic for the crop.
“Earlier, the dry spells affected flowering only, but now it has affected the corn also,” Andrabi said.
The director also accused the MED of not completing the irrigation project despite advance payments given by the agriculture department.
“MED officials have shown callousness in not making bore wells and sprinklers functional till date,” Andrabi said.
He also held some growers responsible for putting up hurdles during the installation process.
“The dry spell has taught the farmers a lesson. Those who were obstructing irrigation have now agreed to the irrigation project,” Andrabi said.