Saffron production peaked in Kashmir in the 1990s with an annual average output of around 15.5 tonnes.(Waseem Andrabi/HT Photo)
Saffron production peaked in Kashmir in the 1990s with an annual average output of around 15.5 tonnes.(Waseem Andrabi/HT Photo)

Kashmir’s saffron yield breaks decade-old record

Saffron is reputed to be the world’s most expensive spice and is known as the king of condiments. It fetches between 1.5 lakh and 2.5 lakh per kilogram.
By Mir Ehsan
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 05:29 AM IST

Kashmir’s saffron output crossed 13.36 tonnes in 2020, the most in a decade, thanks to a the introduction of a scheme in 2010 to rejuvenate the cultivation of the spice , officials said.

Saffron is reputed to be the world’s most expensive spice and is known as the king of condiments. It fetches between 1.5 lakh and 2.5 lakh per kilogram.

Saffron production peaked in Kashmir in the 1990s with an annual average output of around 15.5 tonnes. It has since declined as saffron fields, mainly in Pampore near Srinagar, depended on rain for irrigation, particularly in September and October. Either too much or too little rain was among the reasons for the decline in production.

The production was 11.72 tonnes in 2015 compared to 1.4 tonnes four years earlier.

Kashmir is the only place in India where saffron is cultivated. It is the region’s second-largest revenue earner after horticulture and is estimated to support around 20,000 families.

Chief agriculture officer Mohammad Qasim Ghani said the credit for the increase in the production goes to the National Mission on Saffron launched in 2010 under which root rejuvenation of the crop and sprinkler irrigation were launched.

Saffron yield in the area where the scheme was implemented has increased to 4.5 to 5 kilograms per hectare, Ghani said. “Kashmir has the potential to produce 6 to 7 kilograms of saffron per hectare. Earlier, in the 1980s, our production was over 6 kilograms {per hectare}.”

Ghani blamed dry weather spells among the reasons for the earlier dip in the yield.

In a tweet, Jammu & Kashmir lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha’s office praised the achievement. “Great Achievement: Annual yield of the world’s costliest spice, #Saffron, cultivated in Kashmir has crossed 13 metric tonnes for the first time in the last 10 years.”

Zahoor Ahmad, a saffron grower, said timely rain and snow had boosted production. “We hope that from now onwards the production will keep rising,” Ahmad added.

Officials said saffron is grown across 3,700 hectares in Kashmir compared to 5,500 hectares in the late 1980s. The 410 crore National Mission on Saffron Mission has been implemented on 3,500 hectares. Of this, 3,200 hectares of the land is located in Pampore, and the rest in Srinagar and Budgam.

Officials said the mission had helped bring more land under saffron cultivation. Many growers had earlier started converting saffron fields into apple orchards and using them for commercial purposes because of their prime locations, mostly along the Srinagar-Jammu highway.

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