INDIA - In order to promote saffron production and quality in the state, Indian agriculture minister, Radha Mohan Singh has laid the foundation stone of a saffron park at Pampore, Pulwama with an investment of $ 4.20 million.
Speaking at the foundation stone laying event on 23 August, 2014, Singh said that horticulture is one of the most vibrant sectors for the economy of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) and the state has come out with various missions to improve production, post harvest infrastructure and marketing and promote export of major commercial fruit crops.
The park is being developed by National Horticulture Board, Indian ministry of agriculture under National Saffron Mission.
The board has been assigned the task of setting up a world class infrastructure facility for Saffron Park intended for processing and value addition of saffron.
Mr Singh said park will have common facility infrastructure for sorting, grading, packing, qualify control lab, e-auction centre, garbage/waste utilisation among other latest facilities. It is also proposed to create branding of Kashmir Saffron.
The quality control laboratory will issue qualify certificate of various grades, for which a certification authority will be designated by the state government. This would significantly discourage adulteration and sale of low grade Saffron being sold in the name of Kashmir Saffron.
The minister also expressed concern over the reports that area under saffron cultivation in state is declining from about 5707 hectares in 1996 to just 3875 hectares in 2010-11 bringing down the production from 3.13 kg/hectares to 2.47 kg/hectares in the last few years.
Large numbers of saffron fields have become senile on account of low plant population and it is said that the major biotic stress faced by saffron for several years is corm rot fungal infection, Mr Singh adds.
Farmers in Kashmir are using traditional methods of processing i.e. after plucking of flowers, the stigmas are separated by family labour and sun dried. This result in sharp degeneration in quality, leading to non-standard products, Singh stressed.
To compete in international market, this industry requires best of art infrastructure facilities, Mr Singh adds.
The minister said that the board will develop the common infrastructure facilities like roads, water supply system, power stations, firefighting & control systems, bank counters, restaurant, business centres etc within the park.
Ghulam Hassan Mir, state minister for agriculture, Nazir Ahmad Khan Gurazi, minister of state for agriculture, Rajendra Kumar Tiwari, managing director, National Horticulture Board, Dr Asgar Hassan Sammon, commissioner, agriculture production department were also present at the foundation stone laying event.