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Saffron growers worried as Kashmir witnesses hot, dry weather

SRINAGAR, Sep 15: Farmers of the world’s costliest crop, ‘Saffron’ are worried these days in view of rainfall deficit and hot weather conditions in Kashmir. After witnessing huge losses in 2019 due to untimely snow in November and shutdown for months following abrogation of Article 370, Mohammad Ashraf, a Saffron grower in South Kashmir’s Pampore area was hopeful of good returns in the upcoming season. But the rainfall deficit, dry spell and hot weather conditions in Kashmir have become a worry for Ashraf. “We are not able to dig the Saffron fields due to dry and hot weather. The situation has worsened to such an extent that Saffron fields have developed cracks due to hot weather,” he told. He is cultivating Saffron over one hectare of land.  “If there is no rainfall in the next two weeks, we will suffer heavy damages and our Saffron won’t grow,” he added. Last year, he could grow less than 2 kilogram of Saffron as the production declined due to untimely snowfall in November. One hectare of land produces around 4 kilogram of Saffron. Each kilogram of Saffron costs Rs 2 to 3 lakh depending upon the demand from the consumers. He said the government has failed to keep the irrigation facilities available. “Had there been proper irrigation facilities available, we would not have been dependent on rainfall,” he said. Saffron flowers are sensitive to vagaries of the weather. Its production depends on the weather conditions and the irrigation facilities. Abdul Majeed Wani, another Saffron grower from Pampore said the Saffron fields have turned dry due to rainfall deficit. “We are not able to dig our fields. The production of Saffron will depend upon the weather conditions in the next few weeks. If the dry continues, then there will be heavy damage to Saffron production. I can only pray that there is sufficient rainfall,” Wani said, who is also President Saffron Growers Association. He said last year the rates of Saffron went down and they sold one kilogram of Saffron  for less than Rs 2 lakh. The harvest season of Saffron begins from ending October. More than 16,000 families are associated with this crop production in the valley. Kashmiri saffron is of superior quality because of the higher concentration of crocin, a carotenoid pigment that gives saffron its colour and medicinal value. Saffron, despite its price, is in high demand for its antioxidant properties. Each year, Kashmir produces 16 tonnes of Saffron. Saffron is cultivated in three districts: Pulwama, Srinagar and Budgam of the valley. Pampore, the township in Pulwama district produces the most. Kashmir has recorded the highest temperature of over 36 degrees celcius in August, the first time in 40 years, which is believed to be due to global warming. “We have received less rainfall this time and temperature is above normal,” Director Meteorological Department Sonam Lotus said.(KINS)

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