Sikkim’s saffron cultivation expected to scale up to ten times! Saffron is the most expensive spice in India (a few strands can cost up to hundreds of Rupee) and is cultivated in some areas of Jammu and Kashmir. In order to expand its cultivation, the Ministry of Science and Technology via the Department of Science and Technology (DST) is eyeing many regions in other states.
According to the ministry, a pilot project was deployed in Yangyang village of South Sikkim and it has yielded successful results, The IE reported. The first crop of saffron was produced in September and has been grown across 1,000 square metres.
Citing Dr Arun K Sarma, Director General, North East Centre For Technology Application and Reach (NECTAR), the current production is expected to be scaled up to ten times in Sikkim once they assess the quality of the saffron. So far, its cultivation has been restricted to limited areas in Jammu & Kashmir.
The J&K districts contributing to saffron production include Pampore, Srinagar, Budgam, and Kishtwar. Notably in India, 6 to 7 tonne of saffron is produced annually. However, the demand in India is 100 tonne and in order to meet that, the country has to import saffron. To be sure, one kilo of saffron that is indigenously produced grown costs between Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 2 lakh.
After the idea was discussed, NECTAR scientists began scouting for saffron growers in the state. The report said that the project was done in collaboration with the Botany and Horticulture departments of Sikkim Central University. They checked and tested the pH value of soil in Yangyang. It was found that the soil in Yangyang is similar to the soil in areas of Kashmir where saffron is grown. The report noted that the work was done with the help of a Pampore-based farmer. Saffron seeds were also procured from Pampore and just like the state follows sowing schedules during September and October, the report added.
It is to note that the Saffron has been kept underground for about 45 days and the temperature should be at sub-zero levels. The crop also needs adequate rain if they are sown in August. For plantations in Sikkim, Saffron seeds/ corms were bought and sent to Yangyang from Kashmir by air.