Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Is Saffron Production Droping due to Government Apathy or Climate Change?

It is both, say experts

Govt neglect shrinking saffron fields, declining productivity

Pampore: Saffronologists in Kashmir blame the decline in saffron production in the Valley on government’s neglect and absence of technological interventions. On the contrary saffron production in Iran, Kashmir’s one time competitor in the production of the rare herb, has risen steeply.

Muntazir Ahmed who has a saffron field in Pampore, the saffron heartland of Kashmir is anguished over the dwindling production of the herb although the per kg price of Kashmiri saffron has risen to Rs 3.5 lakh.

“People attribute the significant fall in production to climatic change and pollution. However the reality is that the government and experts have failed to intervene,” he said.

Shafiq Ahmed, another saffron grower, who has an acre of saffron field said his annual yield had decreased from 2.5 kg to a mere 1.5 kg.

Leading saffronologist, Firdous Ahmed Nehvi of the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST), Kashmir, said technology had not trickled down to farmers, resulting in the poor harvest.

According to official figures, over the past 10 years, the annual saffron yield in Kashmir has fallen from 16 metric tonnes to six metric tonnes while the saffron production in Iran during this period has steeply risen to 238 metric tonnes.

Besides, the area under saffron cultivation in Kashmir has gone down from 5707 hectares in 1997 to 2010 hectares in 2007.

In the same period Iran has emerged as the world leader in saffron production and extended its saffron fields from 21,000 hectares to 47,000 hectares.

Experts said scientific inputs and government support had made Iran as the leader in saffron production followed by Spain. Kashmir that had the privilege of producing the best saffron quality with unique aroma has vanished from the world scene, they said.

The incidence of rot, a disease that deteriorates the rhizome of the plant has also gone up to 47 percent from 14 percent during the past 10 years. “The disease has denuded large swathes of the spice herb,” the experts said.

"We approached the government but they showed scanty willingness to the save the cultural crop of Kashmir,” said Ali Ahmed, another farmer.

Prof Anwar Alam, Vice Chancellor of SKUAST, Kashmir revealed that countries leading saffron production get an annual saffron yield of 5.5 to 6 kg per hectare. “However, in Kashmir, the lack of irrigation, nutrients and disease corm rot has lead to the abysmal productivity,” he said. “Research and development at the university has given us clues to increase saffron productivity and achieve quality in post harvest handling, packaging and storage.”

Saffronologist Nahvi said SKUAST Kashmir with the aid of Indian Council of Agricultural Research has launched a ‘major project’ to improve production and involve 250 farmers at the grass root level.

Our effort at refinement of validation of the technologies in the farmers’ field in a holistic manner will help bring the production to international standards within four years, he said. “A brand will also be assigned to the product.”

(Rising Kashmir)

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