Agriculture

National Saffron Mission has failed due to government insensitivity, say growers

The ailing industry was badly hit by last year’s floods which damaged saffron worth Rs 668 crore 

 
By Vijdan Saleem
Last Updated: Friday 10 July 2015

Alarmed by declining yields, the Jammu and Kashmir saffron growers’ association has blamed successive state governments for the failure of the National Saffron Mission (NSM).

 

The clamour has mainly grown after last year the yield of saffron declined by over 80 per cent. “It is due to the insensitivity of successive state governments that the mission has failed,” the President of All J&K Saffron Growers’ Development Cooperative Marketing Association, Abdul Majeed Wani, said.

 

Saffron is sown during June-July and the crop is ready for harvest by October-November. An estimated 16,000 families in 226 villages grow saffron in the Kashmir Valley.

 

About the mission

NSM was launched by the Centre in 2010 to increase saffron production in the Kashmir valley. The government approved Rs 373 crore as part of the four-year mission (2010-14). To make NSM a success, the project time was later increased by two more years and an additional Rs 40 crore was given for reviving 800 hectares of saffron fields. Till now, only Rs 150 crore has been used.

 

The state government has not been able to utilise the funds judiciously, according to the association members. “(Money worth) Rs 250 crore has (remained) unspent in the past four years, with the result (that) it has not benefitted the growers at all.”

 

 

Not enough bore wells

In a study conducted by the Sher-E-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology in 2010, it was found that 128 bore wells were needed to cultivate saffron. However, the Public Health Engineering and the Irrigation and Flood control departments have only constructed three bore wells since 2010.

 

“Under the National Saffron Mission, 85 more bore wells were dug. The need of the hour is that these bore wells should be connected to the fields so that they can provide water,” Wani told Down To Earth.

 

He appealed to Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to take a stock of the situation and address the problems of saffron growers.

 

The association also wants that outside companies should be roped in for irrigation work. “If the state government is not well-equipped, then it should outsource the implementation of the mission to multi-national companies,” Javed Ahmad Ganai, the general secretary of the association, said.

 

Troubled times

The ailing industry in Kashmir was badly hit by last year’s floods which damaged saffron worth Rs 668 crore. Farmers have not been compensated till now, association members alleged

 

“The government did not pay us any compensation for the losses we suffered due to floods and incessant rains even though it was earlier said that saffron will be covered under the crop insurance scheme,” Ganai added.

 

Saffron growers have also demanded that a separate director should be recruited for the mission.

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