Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lack of irrigation facility fails Kashmir Saffron yield

Srinagar January 22: Although Kashmir places India among top three Saffron producers in international market; the cash crop is bereft of any official policy, proper irrigation facility and commodity risk protection. The conflict ridden area produced adequate quantity of saffron during 2008-2009 leading to reduced saffron imports; 1.20 metric tones (MT) by India during the year. The country indeed exported 5.5 MT of world’s costliest spice during the period. However, few believe that water shortage, considered as a major obstacle will be tackled in foreseeable future as the entire cultivable area is rain fed.
The whole saffron land area (3265 ha official and 8000 ha unofficial) is rain fed and not even a single bore well has been arranged by the government during the past 63 years. The yield is stagnant at 2.5 kilogram /ha which is even below the yield of war ravaged Afghanistan. It produces only 800 kilograms of saffron but with a yield of 6 kilograms/ha, according to Afghan official websites. “Spain, one of the major saffron exporters provides sprinkle irrigation to its farmers and has a yield of 8 to 10 kgs /ha. The country has the best cultivation and post harvest practices in the world,” says saffron expert Dr F A Nahvi. Iran, the major exporter of saffron has a yield of 4.5 kgs /ha, he added. The government should take initiatives but farmers on their part need to take saffron cultivation seriously and adopt scientific procedures as recommended by experts, he suggested. “Our crops are at the mercy of rain. We approached the government for a loan on sprinkle irrigation facility. But they turned their backs on us”, said Akil Ahmed a saffron grower from Pulwama. Altaf Aijaz Andrabi, a senior official at the Agriculture department said Rs 1.06 crore has been earmarked for digging bore wells to provide spray irrigation to the fields in the first phase of Rashtriya Kisan Vikas Yojna. Certain beneficiaries have been identified for this year and the scheme will continue in the year ahead, he said.

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