Ah saffron! Growers stare at huge losses as buyers back out due to lockdown
Srinagar: Saffron grower Rashid Ahmad, 35, was on cloud nine when he harvested a bumper crop last year. Sensing an opportunity, he was quick to approach outside dealers to sell his produce at a premium.
Come April, Rashid’s hopes dashed to the ground as buyers backed off citing lockdown. “The government has enforced strict lockdown throughout the country. Dealers are reluctant to buy saffron. Even the international flights have not resumed which has hit our sales,” he said.
Last year the saffron production crossed 13 metric tonnes for the first time in the last 10 years. Nearly 13.36 metric tonnes of saffron were produced last year against 12.495 metric tonnes in 2019.
However, after processing and packing, the saffron growers are unable to find buyers. “Most of the produce is lying in warehouses. Growers were busy processing saffron during winter. They were hoping to reap benefits in summer. But luck had other things in store,” said President Abdul Majeed Wani, a saffron grower and president of the growers association.
Conservative figures reveal that saffron sales have dropped by more than 90 percent due to the lockdown. “My eight kilograms of saffron are lying in Spice Park unsold. Due to the lockdown, dealers are not ready to buy our produce,” Wani said.
Last year, the Centre granted Geographical Indication (GI) tag, symbolizing its exclusivity in the international market. A few months later, the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) accorded accreditation to Pampore-based India International Kashmir Saffron Trading Centre (IIKSTC), which was like icing on the cake.
However, the lockdown has poured cold water on the hopes of growers who were expecting to cash in on the GI tagging this year. , Officials said the GI tagging has certainly helped growers to get better rates in Indian and international markets.