Stresses use of technology by farmers
Pampore: The Saffron fields in Kashmir are celebrating a remarkable achievement as they yield a bumper crop this year, ushering in a transformative era for agriculture in the region. Director Agriculture Kashmir Chaudhary Mohammad Iqbal is elated by this success, crediting it to timely and abundant rainfall, government initiatives, and a notable improvement in Saffron quality.
This year has not only brought agricultural prosperity but also witnessed a surge in tourists and dignitary interest. Visitors have marvelled at the unique heritage crop of Kashmir and its natural cultivation. In response to this positive momentum, collaborative efforts are underway, bringing together government bodies and local farmers to revitalize and effectively market the saffron industry, Director Agriculture Kashmir during a visit to Pampore.
The overarching goal is to empower farmers, turning them into entrepreneurs. Plans include obtaining Geographical Indication (GI) tags for their products, ensuring effective marketing both nationally and internationally. This success story reflects the dedication of the Department of Agriculture and the continuous implementation of industry-developed technology.
Speaking to Kashmir Reader, the Director Agriculture said, “I feel honoured to share that this year, due to the timely and abundant rainfall from nature’s side, the corms within the saffron fields have flourished. We have been monitoring this phenomenon for many years, and it is gratifying to witness a bumper crop this year after a considerable period.”
He said that this year, the Government of India had deployed a team to conduct a crop assessment. After the team’s arrival, there will be a collaboration between the Internal Financial Commissioner, Revenue, and teams from Agriculture, along with our local officials, to consolidate the data. Only then will the complete assessment of the selected areas take place, including the execution of crop cuts at the chosen locations.
“However, our estimate this year is that the quality of saffron flowers is better than in previous years. The flow this year was significant in terms of both tourists and dignitaries. Many dignitaries who visited observed the unique heritage crop of Kashmir and its natural cultivation in the region. There will be concerted efforts, in collaboration with farmers, to revive and market this industry effectively. The goal is to turn our farmers into entrepreneurs, obtain GI tags for their products, and effectively market them in both national and international markets in the times to come,” he said.
Iqbal further said, “When it was observed around 2010 that the production of this crop had declined to 1 to 1.5 kg per hectare, SKUAST-Kashmir conceived a project. This project encompassed various components such as renovation, integrated nutrient management (INM), integrated pest management (IPM), mechanization, and extension technology. Another crucial component was the irrigation compound, a major factor. If farmers did not benefit adequately from these components, it was not just a hidden matter; some farmers from Srinagar district, some from Budgam, some from Kishtwar, and the majority from Pulwama district were involved in this initiative.”
He added, “Because for many years, the saffron corms were diminishing, we made concerted efforts to revive this industry. However, this journey doesn’t end here. When the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir realized the importance of preserving saffron as a heritage crop, they developed a Holistic Agriculture Development Program, placing a specific focus on corm multiplication.”
When the corm quality is good, with sizable and high-quality corms, it will result in more abundant flowering, Chaudhary Iqbal said, adding that increased flowering leads to higher production, and production will be maximized when it is linked with a GI (Geographical Indication) tag, facilitating effective marketing.
The work is ongoing on all fronts, and this process continues year-round. As far as providing technology to farmers is concerned, we are developing a devised program where every month, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and our saffron research station, we sit with farmers to gather feedback on what specific needs they have.
He said that our complete effort will be to issue a schedule for the upcoming 12 months in a comprehensive manner, ensuring the full participation of all our farmers. Every farmer should be able to participate in the schedule, incorporating the technology developed by our university for farmers. “There should be no shortfall in taking the technology, developed by our university for farmers, to all the farmers. Our farmers are the greatest scientists; when our farmers practice agriculture effectively, it brings us peace of mind,” he said.
“The aim is that the technology developed by the industry is continuously implemented in the same way. This is the objective of the Department of Agriculture, and this plan will be consistently worked upon,” the Director said.