No flowers in sight, saffron farmers brace for another dismal year

Pampore: Saffron farmers in Pampore and adjoining areas are staring at yet another bleak harvest despite hopes raised by some rain.
At the onset of November, the saffron fields look barren with no signs of any flowers so far.
The farmers have witnessed some desolate years in recent past given low harvest of the world’s costliest spice. The low yield has been attributed to erratic and inadequate rains.
To tackle the dependence of the crop on rains, the Government of India had initiated, among other things, an irrigation system for the saffron fields. Under the ambitious National Saffron Mission (NSM), several hundred crores have already been spent on seed and an elaborate irrigation system, which has remained lingering for many years now.
“The project was started in the year 2010 and was to be completed by 2014. But unfortunately, while seed has been successfully changed under the NSM, the irrigation system has remained a non starter,” a source in the Agriculture department told Kashmir Reader.
He said that many factors, including the volatile situation in Kashmir valley, have been responsible for the delay in the much needed irrigation system.
Whatever the reasons be, the incomplete irrigation system has kept the farmers all together dependent on timely and adequate rains. This year, the hopes of the farmers were raised when it rained in the end of September and the first week of October.
“We were hopeful that the yield will be better for the rains seemed to be timely. But it has not rained since and we can see another dismal year staring at us,” Farooq Ahmad, a saffron grower from Pampore told Kashmir Reader.
The fears of saffron growers do not look unfounded when one take a look at the saffron fields. So far no saffron flowers are in sight which is bad news for the farmers.
“Generally, we base our estimates of the yield on flowers visible by October 24. It is 28 of October already and the land looks barren, with not even a single flower in sight,” another saffron grower, Nazir Ahmad Lone, said.
Lone says the non-existent flowers are testimony to another dismal year for farmers like him.
“We can only pray that our fortunes are turned around,” he added.
But the prayers seem unlikely to be answered any time soon for it is unusually cold these days and that is no good news either for the farmers.
Moreover, a dismal tourist season owing to the abrogation of Article-370 and the aftermath has meant that the saffron kept in the valley for tourist consumption still adorns the shelves of many shops across Kashmir.
“That ultimately comes back to us and needs to be re-sold. Things look really bad for now,” Farooq Ahmad said.

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