Saffron bowl of India extends to the North East

Context: The saffron bowl, which was so far confined to Kashmir, may soon expand to the North East of India.

Analysis

  • Plants transported from Kashmir to Sikkim and acclimatized there are now flowering in Yangyang in the Southern part of Sikkim.
  • The matching of climatic and geographical conditions (soil and actual pH conditions) between Pampore (Kashmir) and Yangyang (Sikkim) led to the successful sample farming of Saffron in Yangyang.
  • Pampore region, in India, commonly known as the Saffron bowl of Kashmir, is the main contributor to saffron production, followed by Budgam, Srinagar, and Kishtiwar districts.
  • Pampore’s saffron is considered to be of superior quality because of the presence of a higher concentration of crocin.
  • Its crocin content – which gives the saffron its darker colour and medicinal value – is even higher as compared to the Iranian variety.
  • The Palampur-based Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (CSIR-IHBT) is already using tissue culture technology for the production of disease-free, healthy and flowering sized saffron corms in the trials it has been conducting in what it calls “non-traditional areas of (Bharmour) Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Leh, North East and hilly regions of Tamil Nadu”.
  • A corm is a short, vertical, swollen underground plant stem that serves as a storage organ that some plants use to survive winter or other adverse conditions such as summer drought and heat.
  • As saffron growing was confined to very specific areas in Kashmir, its production remained limited.
  • The annual demand for saffron in India is 100 tonnes per year, but its average production is about 6-7 tonnes per year. 
  • Knocked by the change in climate, poor irrigation, and imports of the cheaper Iranian variety, saffron production in the valley has declined rapidly.
  • Kashmir saffron, which is cultivated and harvested in the Karewa (highlands) of Jammu and Kashmir, has been given the Geographical Indication (GI) tag by the Geographical Indications Registry.
  • According to Article 22 (I) of the World Trade Organisation Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement, GI tags are “indications which identify a product as originating in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or characteristic of the product is essentially attributable to its geographic origin”.

Climatic and geographical conditions

  • For saffron, a crop that is dependent on moisture for a good yield, irrigation is essential.
  • A temperate climate with sunny days during the flowering period is favourable for good yield.
  • Rains during September are favourable to initiate timely growth of roots and floral/aerial vegetative shoots.
  • Localities covered with snow during winter at an altitude ranging from 1500 to 2400 m provide necessary chilling for the commercial cultivation of saffron.
  • Saffron requires medium-textured soil with good drainage capacity. Soil with a neutral reaction is best suited for saffron cultivation.

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