Early Nov snow damages 40% of saffron produce

SRINAGAR: Saffron, the costliest spice and a distinct agricultural produce grown in Pampore, near Srinagar, has suffered nearly 40 per cent damage due to the heavy snowfall early this month, hampering its harvest midway unlike in the past.

editorial@tribune.com

Ehsan Fazili

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, November 20

Saffron, the costliest spice and a distinct agricultural produce grown in Pampore, near Srinagar, has suffered nearly 40 per cent damage due to the heavy snowfall early this month, hampering its harvest midway unlike in the past.

Pampore township, about 15 km from here on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway, is known for the “world’s best saffron” over an area of 3,200 hectares of land, producing high-quality saffron than Spain and Iran.

The state government in 2010 had launched a four-year Saffron Mission to rejuvenate its production, which continues with efforts on to enhance the produce costing Rs 1.5 to 2 lakh per kg. Carevas around Pampore produce six to seven metric tonnes (equivalent to 60 quintals or 6,000 kgs) of saffron annually.

“We were expecting a good (saffron) crop after good bloom this season with splashes of rain from time to time,” the Chief Agriculture Officer (CAO) of Pulwama district said, adding that scanty rain in the past few years did not help a good yield. The annual saffron harvest is completed in four to five phases from October 20 to November 10, every year. “The untimely snowfall on November 6 caused 35 to 40 per cent loss of the crop that got buried under snow”, said the District Officer.

The Department of Agriculture has deputed its teams in coordination with those from the Revenue Department to assess the extent of damage and compensation to the saffron growers under the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF).

Most of the farmers had completed three rounds of picking of the delicate saffron flowers when the untimely snowfall hampered the subsequent couple of harvests. As compared to the previous two or three years, the expected target was much higher this year, which could not be achieved due to bad weather, said Abdul Majeed Wani, president of the J&K Saffron Growers’ Association.

The crop this season, according to Bilal Habib, a farmer from Namblabal, Pampore, was “better as compared to the previous few years”. Bilal, having saffron fields of over 20 kanals of land, as the only source of income, has suffered a heavy loss due to the recent snow. He rues that the sprinkle irrigation, for which over a 100 bore-wells were dug up under the Saffron Mission, is still incomplete.

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