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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Sep 2014

Facing decline, Kashmir saffron mission gets BJP govt's push

Peerzada Ashiq , Hindustan Times  Srinagar, August 23, 2014
First Published: 20:15 IST(23/8/2014) | Last Updated: 20:17 IST(23/8/2014)

Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi calls for branding of Kashmir saffron, union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh on Saturday laid the foundation stone for the Saffron Park Project in Pampore area of Pulwama district.

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The saffron park, developed by the National Horticulture Board of the union agriculture ministry, is coming up at the cost of Rs. 24.54 crore.

Union minister Singh expressed concern over reports that area under saffron cultivation was declining from about 5,707 hectares in 1996 to just 3875 hectares in 2010-11.

"Horticulture is among vibrant sectors of J&K's economy. However, a large number of saffron fields have become senile on account of low plant population. In order to overcome problem, the project for economic revival of J&K saffron sector has been implemented in a mission mode," he said.

Saffron production has come down from 3.13 kg/hectare to 2.47 kg/hectare in the last few years.  The components of the mission, however, will include rejuvenation and replanting of existing saffron area for improving productivity, soil health, besides standardization of quality corm and strengthening the irrigation system.
 
It will also enhance productivity through improved post-harvest handling.

Farmers in Kashmir are using traditional methods of processing after plucking the flowers. The stigmas are separated by family labour and then they are sun-dried.

"This (traditional practice) results in sharp degeneration in quality, leading to non-standard products. To compete in international market, the National Horticulture Board has been assigned the task of setting up a world class infrastructure facility for saffron park for processing and value addition," said the union minister.

The union minister's visit has come just 11 days after Modi's pledge to make Kashmir saffron an international brand in his speech in Kargil.


FACT FILE
 
1) The period for completion of mission has been extended to 6 years.
2) An amount of Rs. 400.11 crore will be spent on revival of saffron in Jammu and Kashmir.
3) Objective of the saffron mission is to double the average production of saffron from 2. 5 kg/hectare to over 5 kg/hectare.
4) Productivity of saffron has reached to 4.5 kg/hectare in last three years
5) The 1867 hectare of land has been rejuvenated and 21500 MT of vermin compost, fertilizer and pesticides were distributed among the farmers

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