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.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Saffron Cultivation on Decline

Afzal says that farmers are shifting to other crops as the state government fails to come to their rescue

Saffron Cultivation, Production Faces Decline in Kashmir

M. Afzal Sofi (Kashmir Monitor)

Srinagar: For the last 20 years Adbul Qadir had been cultivating saffron in his 10 kanals of land in Budgam district; but the consistent heavy losses during last few years has forced him to shift to farming of a different crop.

“The cultivation of saffron costs around Rs 15,000 per kanal and profit was much less than that,” said Qadir, adding that had he not shifted to other crops he would have starved.

Qadir is one among the hundreds of the farmers who have switched over from saffron farming to other crops as former was no longer commercially viable for them.

Saffron is cultivated in Jammu and Kashmir mainly in Pampore, Pulwama, Budgam and Kashtiwar. But the cultivable area as well as production has reduced by half in a decade’s time.

According to the records of Agriculture Ministry, the area under saffron cultivation has declined from 5,707 hectares in 1997-98 to 3,010 hectares in 2006-07.

Also the productivity of the saffron has decreased from 16 metric tons to 8.5 metric tons with the average crop yield of 2.32 kilograms per hectare.

The experts believe that if adequate steps are not taken saffron cultivation may face grave threat in the state.

“Productivity is declining at a very fast rate an so far government and its concerned agencies including the authorities at SKUAST-K have done precious little to save this expensive spice,” said Ghulam Hassan an agriculturist.

The farmers blame illegal imports, adulteration of saffron and non-seriousness of the authorities for the declining production as well as their own interest in saffron farming.

Farmers claim that every year large quantity of saffron is illegally imported into Kashmir from other countries at very cheap rates which has brought the industry to huge loss.

“Saffron from other countries of the world is sold here under the name of Kashmiri saffron due to which the rates of the original Kashmiri saffron have gone down and keep on fluctuating throughout the year, which ultimately result in huge losses to us,” said Qadir, adding that a year back one ‘tola’ (12 grams) of saffron would cost around Rs 3000 but this year the rate has reduced to much less than half.

“Adulterated saffron is also being sold in the market by some traders which has downgraded the image of Kashmir saffron in the national and international market,” he lamented.

Farmers also said that government took some steps in preventing illegal import of saffron last year and many were arrested but no substantial change occurred as the authorities couldn’t sustain their action for long.

Pertinently Kashmiri saffron is considered to be world’s best saffron for its long red stamens with distinctive aroma, color and flavor.

The other reasons for low production of the saffron, the experts say are ignorance of farmers about cultivation techniques and climate changes.

“The recycling of saffron farms after every 4-5 years is necessary; farmers here have not recycled their farms for long periods now which can be the reason for low production and quality of saffron here,” said an agriculturist.

He also said that pollution (mainly due to cement plants) in the Khrew belt of Srinagar district has led to the scant rainfall and snowfall in the region which has affected the production of saffron in main region of Pampore to a large extent.

The farmers also claim that not much has been done by the government even after the Saffron Bill passed by Jammu and Kashmir Assembly in 2006, which was aimed at saving the land under saffron cultivation and regulating the market of saffron at national and international levels and imposing curbs on the adulteration of saffron.

However, in the recently concluded autumn session of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, Agriculture Minister, Ghulam Hassan Mir while admitting the reduction in saffron production informed that with the implementation of National Mission on Saffron for economic revival of J&K saffron, government is expected to increase the production of saffron to 5 kilogram per hectare.

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