December 2004 News

Kashmiri saffron losing market

17 December 2004
News Network International

Srinagar: Popularity of world famous saffron grown in Kashmir is on the decline due partly to lack of protection by the puppet government and partly owing to stiff competition from Iran which now meets 80% of world demand for the commodity.   In fact, the saffron from Iran is more in demand.    According to Ghulam Mohammad Pampori, a saffron farmer from Pampore, 'the crux of this competition lies in Iran taking the initiative to introduce modern farming techniques, good packaging and moderate pricing.   Farmers in Kashmir are now complaining that it is difficult for them to break even in terms of costs. This year the price of Saffron flowers is Rs.200 to Rs.250 per kg.   It was Rs.500 four years back. The production has come down. It is also less in demand in the market, and whatever we invest, even that amount does not come back,' said G M Pampori. He adds, 'We are facing tough competition from Iran'   Other farmers said modern techniques make Iranian saffron more competitive in the world market.   'First of all the management is wrong. Crop management practices are not followed at all,' said an agriculture scientist. He said that the Kashmiri saffron growers are following the age-old practices and are refusing to introduce new techniques.   At Rs.5000 a pound, saffron is the world's most expensive spice. The delicate flowers are harvested only in mid- autumn. The saffron flowers begin to grow after the first rains and the blooming period is usually mid-October.   Kashmir's cool climate and rich soil with excellent drainage and organic content make the location an ideal thriving ground for this spice but a lapse in any one of the conditions can spoil the entire crop.   A report by daily 'Wadi-ki-Awaz' said although the area under saffron farming in the state has gone up from 4000 hectares in early 90s to 5000 in 2002, but since past few years the production has gone down, as has been its demand.   Iran is the world's top producer of the spice. It supplies more than 80 percent of the world's demand with a plantation area of about 36,724 to 41,325 hectares and an annual production of 150 to 170 tons.    Due to its diverse climate and fertile soil, Iran's agriculture products are rated among the best in the world with saffron being no exception.   While saffron is planted in many regions of the country, including the southeast, Khorasan province in the northeast has the highest production share.   Iran's saffron production has in the past decade been increasing steadily, most of which is exported overseas, to the United Arab Emirates, Spain, Japan, Turkmenistan, France, Italy and even the US.  


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