Saffron industry under threat

At one time in the history of Kashmir saffron was the main item of export to the world outside and thus it had become the mainstay of Kashmir’s economy. Saffron export to Central Asian region and beyond through the ancient Silk Road came to be stopped when the Mongols rose in Central Asia and their hordes became a threat to the entire trade carried out along the Silk Road. After independence in 1947, saffron industry in Kashmir was almost revived and in due course of time it flourished making the saffron growers and traders prosperous. The State Government tampered with the smooth saffron trade by introducing the controversial Saffron Mission in 2007. It opened the floodgate for converting the saffron producing lands into residential and commercial land. People with big money rushed to Pampore and with the instrumentality of land mafia purchased lands and converted these to residential and commercial units thereby inflicting. No wonder even Government functionaries could be accomplices in this type of criminal activity.
Saffron production is possible only in this particular area of Pampore plateau with special soil and also with special ecological and environmental conditions. Saffron is an over ground flower and perhaps it requires pollution free air and environs. My be the polluted air has damaged the growth of the flower. Prior to 2007, when Government was yet to introduce its ambitious Saffron Mission, 5100 hectares of land was under Saffron cultivation, which has now reduced to 3,715 hectares owing to unregulated urbanization and Government’s inability to save the saffron land. This is what the local people say but the Director of Agriculture has a different story. He claims that there is no shrinking of saffron producing land and no land has been converted into residential or commercial unit. This contradictory statement makes things more complicated and at least one thing which is generally inferred is that the traditional saffron planters feel that the era of saffron production is over and change being the law of the world, they must also change and look for new avenues of sustenance because the land will get reduced and pollution will not be controlled. It is so sad that the Government is playing a non serious role and is not waking up to save this prestigious agrarian activity that has once been the mainstay of Kashmir economy.