Saffron Mission goes sluggish

Growers remind New Delhi

Srinagar, July 08: Saffron producers Wednesday claimed that Kashmir was capable of surpassing Iran in Saffron production if the Union government did not let the Saffron Mission die in Kashmir. Addressing a press conference here on Wednesday All J&K Saffron Growers Development Cooperative Marketing Association Wednesday appealed Government of India to support the growers who had already achieved the 50 percent of the Iran production target.

“We can reach that mark provided our crops have a sprinkle irrigation facility,” he said.

He appealed the chief minister to take a strong review from the agriculture officers and rescue the saffron growers and also the rare crop from getting vanished.

Abdul Sattar Wani, Treasurer of the producers' body and Publicity Secretary, Ghulam Mohuddin Bhat also addressed the media.  They said 85 percent produce was lost to the past year's floods and the government was yet to wave KCC loans.

Addressing a news conference at here, All J&K Saffron Growers Development Cooperative Marketing Association President Abdul Majeed Wani said Kashmir saffron was struggling to survive due to the mismanagement of the National Saffron Mission in Kashmir.

Wani said after the 2009 draught, in 2010, they had met the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and informed him about the problems the saffron farmers of Kashmir were facing and he had promised them all possible help and announced saffron mission for Kashmir.

National Saffron Mission was launched in August 2010 and Government of India approved a plan of Rs 373 crore under National Saffron Mission Programme (NSMP) to revive the saffron production in Jammu and Kashmir.

The amount was to be spent under the National Saffron Mission till 2014 while Rs 9.50 crore had been distributed among farmers for replantation of corms.

Wani said the government had also promised to provide Rs 25,000 assistance per kanal of saffron crop to the farmers of which they had provided the government Rs 5000 for setting up sprinkle irrigation for the crops.

He said the growers had submitted a study conducted by the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Sciences and Technology, Kashmir (SKUAST) to the then prime minister, who had promised to help it implement for increasing the productivity of saffron in Kashmir.

Saffron, the world’s costliest spice, has a huge market of 45 to 50 tonnes is India and the saffron growers are eyeing to supply produce for that market.

Wani said the study of SKUAST had found that there was a need for 128 bore wells in Kashmir but the Mechanical Division of the Public Health Engineering and Irrigation department had only been able to dig three bore wells in the past four years.

“On the contrary, 85 bore wells have been dug in the saffron mission but now there is a need to connect them to the saffron fields and provide sprinkle irrigation facilities otherwise all that hard work  will go waste,” he said.

Wani said now that the new government is in place, they hope that Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed would pay heed toward the problems of the saffron growers and come to their rescue by helping them with setting up of sprinkle irrigation in their fields.

He said there was no dearth of funds in the Saffron Mission as Government of India besides providing Rs 373 crore had also provided an additional Rs 40 crore for the rejuvenation of around 800 hectare of saffron fields in Kashmir.

“If MNCs are not roped in for the project of setting up of sprinkle irrigation, Mechanical division of the PHE and Irrigation department will take 50 years to complete the project,” Wani said.

He said it was unfortunate that of total Rs 423 crore, the State has been only able to spend Rs 150 crore so far due to which the growers were suffering.

Wani said the State is also getting an additional Rs 332 crore for Saffron Mission II for planting karevas saffron crop in karevas.

“The growers also intend to plant saffron crop in Bungus, which will help uplift the local economy,” he said. “We are doing this on our own.”

General Secretary of All J&K Saffron Growers Development Cooperative Marketing Association, Javed Ahmad Ganai said the Saffron Mission had almost failed in Kashmir.

Ganai said that the growers want their crops to be insured and were ready to pay 50 percent of the insurance fee and hope the Government of India and State government provide the remaining 50 percent of the insurance fee.

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