Saving saffron

J&K proposes a strategy

 
By Ishfaq-ul-hassan
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Local product under threat (Credit: Surya Sen / CSE)with a view to weeding out adulteration from the saffron industry of Jammu and Kashmir (j&k), local experts have proposed the registration of the product under geographical indication (gi) in a manner similar to Basmati rice. They have also suggested that a single brand of Kashmiri saffron be floated.

Nowadays, inferior quality Iranian saffron is increasingly being mixed with the Kashmiri variety. This has left the state's farmers jittery. While Kashmiri saffron is purer and sells for Rs 38,000 per kilogramme (kg), Iranian saffron is priced at Rs 16,000-20,000 per kg.

"It is not outsiders alone who resort to malpractices. Some of our own people are also involved in selling the adulterated variety," alleges G M Pampori, president, Kashmiri Saffron Growers and Dealers Association. "We had suggested the registration of saffron under gi and are in touch with Delhi. But it is still just a proposal," reveals A Sahasaraman, principal secretary of j&k's industries department. It may, however, be noted that providing gi for Kashmiri saffron would merely safeguard the domestic interests of saffron-growers. In the international market, gi protection is extended only to wines and spirits.

According to Pampori, unprecedented drought and disease have also led to a decrease in saffron production in the valley. "We had set up two marketing societies -- the Kashmir Kesar Bhandar and Kashmir Kisan Kesar Bhandar (kkkb) -- to promote the local saffron variety. Although kkkb has one member each from the 205 villages that produce saffron, yet this idea has not taken off," laments Pampori. The j&k government has formulated an action plan for the promotion of saffron cultivation under the state's macro-management programme. While saffron growers have welcomed the move, they have demanded immediate action to save the industry from the clutches of the adulteration mafia.

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