Snowfall buries hopes of saffron growers in Valley.
A fortnight before, dozens of young men and women employed to leave their homes early in the afternoon and go for the areas spread on each side of their Srinagar-Jammu National Highway in south Kashmir to collect the fragrant reddish orange threads from saffron bulbs.
They had been hoping to get a bumper crop following months of unrest following the August 5 proceed from the Centre to nullify Article 370, which stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its distinctive status, also curbs clamped on public movement and communications that hurt every company in the Valley. Saffron growers thought production would triple.
Heavy snowfall in the first week of November place paid to these hopes.The precipitation from November 6 to 8 in the northeast and north of Kashmir has made over 40 percent of the saffron crop buried under snow at Pampore, where most of the saffron grows. With the saffron bulbs totally ruined, nobody is venturing out to pluck fresh flowers.
‘There will not be any flower pickings. We had been optimistic that the return will increase and double or triple from the previous year’s production. Unfortunately the heavy snowfall ruined the crop,’ says Mohammad Ashraf, that lives in Dassu village, in which the Jammu and Kashmir government has put up a beige park with the Centre’s aid.
Saffron is thought to be the most expensive spice in the world from weightreduction, fetching between $1.5 lakh and $2.5 lakh per year kilogram.It also has medicinal value. The climatic conditions in Kashmir are believed to be perfect to grow the flower of Crocus sativus, where saffron is derived.
This year, the flower collection in Kashmir started in late October due to the unrest and growers had been preparing for a longer flower-plucking season that will last until the previous week of November.
‘This snowfall occurred at the summit of the saffron harvest. For me and my family, the fantastic harvest was the sole real hope, especially when every company has been closed for the last over a hundred days. Now this expect also has received a jolt,”said Ashraf.
Ghulam Ahmad Magray, a businessman-farmer owing an undercover of saffron land in Lethpora, is rueful. ‘each year Saffron used to supplement my own organization income. Once the status was eliminated, shops are closed and I have done no business. I had hopes that saffron will fetch me good money but that was not to be,” said Magray, that owns a chain of shops.
Near Magray’s house, Mohammad Iqbal has set up a showroom where he used to market saffron and dry fruits to the tourists travelling to the federal highway.
‘There aren’t any tourists, and due to continuous shutdown, I haven’t opened my store for the previous 3 months. Even if I open my store, there won’t be some customers,”Iqbal said.
He used to market dry fruits as well as other merchandise, like handicrafts, and get about Rs 30,000 to 40,000 everyday. ‘Since our shop is close to saffron areas, the requirement for original saffron was constantly there and a significant chunk of money used to emerge from saffron sale. Now, I really don’t have sufficient money to pay for my three kids.”
‘The area has shrunk and manufacturing has come ,” Pampori said.
He said the blossom plucking couldn’t be completed by the growers. ‘The central authorities had started a saffron assignment project to improve the creation but the job hasn’t gone exactly the way it should have.”
Pampori, who owns a hectare of saffron land, said that he had plucked 10 kilograms of flowers. ‘After sorting out, I will be able to receive three to four kilograms of pure saffron.”
Growers claim saffron was earlier grown on more than 5,500 hectares and its cultivation has come down to 4,000 hectares with many converting saffron fields into apple orchards. Some began using saffron areas for purposes due to their locations on the highway.
The government has purchased 3,500 hectares of property under the saffron assignment with 3,200 hectares in Pulwama district and remainder 3,00 hectares at Srinagar and Budgam.