Srinagar: Saffron production has hit a 25-year high in Kashmir.
Figures shared by the Department of Agriculture reveal that the saffron production was 15.04 metric tonnes last year.
Earlier, the highest production was recorded in 1996 when the yield hit 15 MT. The average yield was 2.80 kg per hectare, while the cultivated area was 5,707 hectares.
After 1996, both saffron production, as well as cultivable land, declined in Kashmir as farmers shifted to other crops for better returns.
Before the launch of the National Saffron Mission in 2011, saffron production had declined by 35 percent (10.40MT) and the area under cultivation had shrunk to 3,715 hectares.
Director Agriculture department Chaudhary Mohammad Iqbal told The Kashmir Monitor that timely rains helped the crop retain moisture for a longer duration.
“We had enough rain before flowering. It helped in maintaining a water balance in the soil,” he said.
He said technological intervention under National Saffron Mission led to an increase in production.
“The department extended services like intercultural operations and inter-nutrient management in saffron cultivation. Management of land, quality of seeds, supplement-integrated nutrients, and pest management too helped,” he said.
Saffron cultivation entails hard work and patience. When the purple harvest arrives in autumn, the flowers are plucked and the crimson red stigma removed and dried for days until it shrinks to the size of a slender thread. One stigma of saffron weighs about 2 mg and on average each flower has three stigmata.
Kashmiri saffron is considered superior because of the higher concentration of crocin, a carotenoid pigment that has a medicinal value. Its crocin content is 8.72 percent compared to the Iranian variant’s 6.82 percent, which gives it a darker color and enhanced medicinal value.