Calls for urgent reforms amid drastic saffron production decline in town
Pampore: Justice (Retd.) Hasnain Masoodi, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Anantnag Lok Sabha Constituency, paid a visit to the India International Kashmir Saffron Trade Centre (IIKSTC) in Dusoo, located in the picturesque Pampore area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Monday.
During his visit, MP Masoodi conducted a comprehensive inspection of the various departments within the processing unit, placing special emphasis on the Stigma Separation Centre. Subsequently, he convened a crucial meeting with the concerned officials at IIKSTC Dusoo to discuss critical aspects related to saffron production, trade, and the challenges confronting local farmers.
Speaking to Kashmir Reader, Hasnain Masoodi shed light on the significance of October and November as prime months for saffron production in Pampore. He expressed deep concern over the traditional methods employed for saffron cultivation, which are proving less effective, leading to a significant decline in production.
He revealed that saffron production, which once stood at approximately 22,000 crore rupees, has dwindled considerably to around 4,000 crore rupees. This year’s production is anticipated to be a mere 2,000 crore rupees, representing just 10% of the typical output.
Masoodi underlined that IIKSTC Dusoo, a facility with an investment of around 35 crore rupees, is Geographical Indication (GI) tagged to safeguard against counterfeit saffron. The facility’s primary objective is to promote genuine Kashmiri saffron in the market. However, the substantial reduction in saffron production remains a pressing concern.
He cited several factors contributing to this issue, including the faltering Saffron mission, launched with a budget of 500 crore rupees. The concept of sprinkle irrigation, a pivotal component of the mission, did not yield the desired results. Borewells, intended for irrigation, were not adequately established, resulting in numerous complaints. Additionally, pollution stemming from cement factories, limestone mining, and immersions has exacerbated the problem by depleting groundwater levels, causing moisture deficits, and adversely affecting overall saffron yields.
Regarding the incomplete irrigation borewells, MP Hasnain Masoodi disclosed that the project was originally envisioned with 128 borewells, none of which have been made operational. The concept of sprinkle irrigation, designed to provide saffron fields with adequate water during dry spells, failed to be effectively implemented. As a result, when production faltered, the caretakers of these fields were not paid their salaries.
He recounted his third visit to IIKSTC Dusoo and his recommendation for the establishment of a dedicated mechanical division within the agriculture department to ensure self-reliance. However, the proper execution of this suggestion did not materialize, negatively impacting the local population in the Pampore area.
He also highlighted a significant decline in the business potential among the local populace, which has dropped from an estimated 4 billion rupees to approximately 1 billion rupees. He stressed that improved saffron production could unlock the full potential of IIKSTC Dusoo, enabling local saffron farmers to benefit from this facility following a successful production season.
Regarding saffron corm shortages, he expressed concern shared by other saffron farmers and suggested establishing nurseries in Pampore, each covering 100 acres, to address the corm shortage for saffron cultivation. This step is essential to ensure the availability of new corms for farmers. Saffron is a highly valuable crop, and it is imperative to position it effectively in the market.
Masoodi emphasized the need for urgent reforms to rejuvenate the saffron industry and restore its economic vitality, benefitting the entire region.