Kashmir Saffron Suffers Rs668 Cr Loss, Production Dips By 70 Pc

2 November 2014
Greater Kashmir
Mukeet Akmali

Srinagar: Already battling for survival in the face of massive farmland conversion for residential purposes, the ailing saffron industry in Kashmir has been badly hit by floods and incessant rains inflicting a whopping Rs 668 crore to farmers and growers. Pampore town, 14 kms from capital city of Srinagar, is known for saffron fields. The area is popular for cultivating the world's rich spice. But post-floods, the saffron fields in the town are presenting a gloomy picture with farmers and growers bemoaning their lot as they say that they have suffered extensive crop losses. Notably, as per official figures compiled by Agriculture department, the heavy rainfall in September which caused overflowing of river Jehlum has declined the production of saffron by 70 percent. The rains coupled with floods in Saffron growing areas have declined the total production of Saffron by 10 metric ton in Kashmir causing losses to the tune of Rs 668 crore. Last year's total production was reported at 15 metric ton, but now the growers and farmers expect the production to be hovering around 4 to 5 metric tons. 'We have lost everything. First, the floods made us homeless then continuous rains waterlogged saffron fields and damaged our all crops,' General Secretary, Kashmir Saffron Growers, Abdul Majeed Wani said. He said the rainfall in early September this year caused water-logging even at higher places which had not been affected by the floods thus impacting overall growth of saffron flowers. 'Further, due to dip in temperature morphology of the saffron flowering changed this season due to rainfall. There was no flowering in October,' he said. As per the report prepared by the Agriculture Department Kashmir, a total of 3600 hectares of Saffron fields have been affected in Kashmir division due to dip in temperature during September and subsequent floods which hit low-lying areas. . Wani said: 'Water logging caused moisture in the crocus flowers which has put the crop in vegetative mood thus making it useless.' Muhammad Jhamsheed, a saffron farmer said the damage to the crop is nearly 90 percent, and all the saffron bulbs stored in low-lying areas have been inundated. Apart from Pampore town, the crop is also grown in Budgam and Kishtwar districts, all of which were badly hit by the floods. 'There would be a scarcity of saffron bulbs (used to grow saffron) in coming years as water has seeped in. When water gets inside the bulb it is completely destroys it,' he said. Kashmir's Saffron remains in demand in India as the country consumes more than 40 metric ton saffron every year. According to the growers here, the Kashmir saffron remains particularly in demand due to its quality. Talking to Greater Kashmir, Director Agriculture, Mushtaq Peerzada said that the saffron trade has been badly hit by floods and rains in Kashmir. 'Saffron has suffered an estimated damage of Rs 668 crore and production of the crop has declined by 70 percent which is distressing,' he said He said as per our reports the rains have damaged saffron corms worth Rs 500 crore while the saffron flowers damaged are estimated to be worth Rs 168 crore hit. 'The incessant rainfall destroyed a total of 3600 hectares of saffron fields causing a total damage of around Rs 668 crore,' he said. Saffron sowing takes place during the months of June and July and its crop is ready for harvesting by October or in November. The crop is grown on small landholdings with an average size of 0.5 hectare by some 16,000 families in 226 villages. The Department has already submitted a report of total damage of Rs 3,675 crore in agriculture sector to the state government. 'Now state government has submitted assessment report to Centre government for rehabilitation which is yet to be finalized by New Delhi,' he said. Peerzada said that the incessant rains have also derailed the Saffron Mission in Kashmir which had started to reap results.