Kashmir's Prized Saffron Industry Losing Ground

23 August 2014
Greater Kashmir
Mukeet Akmali

Srinagar: Union Minister for Agriculture, Radha Mohan Singh, Saturday, expressed concern over the decline in the area under saffron cultivation in Kashmir. The minister laid the foundation of Saffron Park at Pampore, here. Speaking at the function he said: 'It is disheartening that the land under saffron cultivation in Kashmir has declined from about 5707 hectares in 1996 to just 3875 hectares in 2010-11. The production of the prized spice has also sharply declined from 3.13 kg-hectares to 2.47 kg-hectares in the last few years.' Singh said the centre government by extending 'Saffron Mission' to Kashmir will provide all possible assistance to state government in order give fillip to the agriculture sector. He said that BJP government after assuming power at New Delhi 'is working hard to develop Jammu and Kashmir in a big way.' 'You can witness for yourself that Prime Minister after assuming office has visited twice to Jammu and Kashmir and our two union ministries are currently in Kashmir trying to work out plans to help people,' he said. The union minister said that Kashmir has the privilege of producing the finest quality saffron famous for its colour and flavour all over the world. He said the union government is determined to provide all assistance to the saffron growers in producing the world's number one saffron from Kashmir, adding that strengthening farming community is necessary for the development of the nation. Terming Kashmir as the 'crown of India', the Union Minister said that the union Government will make all out efforts and provide assistance to develop the State. Singh said the aim and objective of the Saffron Mission is to double the average production of Saffron from 2.5 kg per ha to over 5 kg per ha by adopting appropriate technology. The Union Minister said that Soil Health Cards will be provided to the farmers of the country in next 3 years so that they face no problem in producing quality productions from the cultivable land. Singh said that during the implementation of the Mission a large number of local youth will get employment opportunities which will surely change their socio-economic conditions. Referring to setting up of Horticulture University in Jammu and Kashmir State, the Union Minister asked the State government to submit a detailed proposal to the concerned Union Ministry for appropriate action. Union Minister on the occasion said that the BJP led government at Centre is in favor of disbanding Planning commission. 'Planning Commission seems to be currently facing hurdles in release of funds. States are complaining that till September funds and plans are not sanctioned. In this regard we are planning to disband the commission,' he said. Singh on the occasion laid foundation stone of Rs 24.54 crore prestigious Saffron Park Project at Dussu, Pampore. Minister for Agriculture, Ghulam Hassan Mir, Member Parliament, Ghulam Nabi Ratanpuri, Minister of State for Agriculture Nazir Ahmad Khan Gurezi, MLA Pampore Zahoor Ahmad Mir were present on the occasion. The Saffron Park is being developed by the National Horticulture Board, Union Ministry of Agriculture under the National Saffron Mission started in the State in 2010. The period for completion of the Mission has been extended by six years during which Rs 400.11 crore will be spent on revival of saffron in Kashmir under National Saffron Mission. Speaking on the occasion, Minister for Agriculture Ghulam Hassan Mir said that the objective of the National Saffron Mission is to enhance the overall production of saffron, improving quality of saffron, enhancement of research and extension capability and develop appropriate system for organised marketing for the growers. Minister of State for Agriculture Nazir Ahamd Khan Gurezi, in his address, stressed need for evolving strong policy for marketing of saffron in the world under a registered trade mark. Member Parliament Ghulam Nabi Ratanpuri and MLA Pampore Zahoor Ahmad Mir also addressed the gathering and suggested the measures for boosting of saffron crops.