Srinagar: Fourth-four-year-old saffron grower Tariq Ahmad, had switched to apple trading, but he could neither adjust nor earn enough money.
Despite working hard in his saffron fields, his entire earnings would get consumed by the labor cost, forcing him to look for other businesses.
Three years back, he returned to saffron farming, courtesy Geographic Indication (GI).
“For many decades, Kashmir saffron didn’t get its desired rates in the market. Farmers suffered and due to this many saffron fields were turned into concert jungles. Fortunately, I conserved my saffron fields and now it fetches me even more money than apples,” he said.
Not only Tariq but many farmers are now expanding their saffron farming after GI.
GI was granted to saffron in 2020 and since then the farmers have been harvesting good returns.
Saffron Growers’ Association (SGA) president Abdul Majeed Wani told The Kashmir Monitor that the GI tag has revolutionized the saffron business across the valley.
Wani said farming has undergone a major change, which has increased production as well as enhanced quality of saffron crop.
“After GI tagging, people took farming seriously. Now everything is being done scientifically. Soon after harvesting, the saffron is dried through machines, and a GI tag is given at Spice Park. Traditional drying was affecting the quality of saffron,” he said.
In the last three years, saffron prices have increased by almost 63 percent as demand soared in the national and international markets.
“Right now, a kilogram of saffron is sold at Rs three lakh against Rs 1.5 lakh or less three years before. Our saffron now directly goes to Dubai and in future, it will rule other countries also,” Wani said.
The GI tagging has equally revolutionized the handicrafts sector. An official said that there was an 1100 percent increase in Pashmina GI last year. Pashmina dealers said GI tag will prove to be a game changer.
“Right, we are supplying a good chunk of Pashmina to the Middle East, Europe, and some parts of Asia. They are very much concerned with the purity that only GI tag has made possible. The production has started improving so has the export,” said Musadiq Shah, Senior Vice-President, Kashmir Pashmina Organization (KPO).
He said now pure Pashmina was being produced in the valley. “The GI tag was much needed as Pashmina was undergoing a lot of adulteration, which impacted this industry. Through GI tag, Pashmina will get filtered quality-wise with a tag before exportation,” he said.