It is that time of the year again, when the harvesting of saffron brings Jammu and Kashmir’s Pampore to life.
Kashmir, India’s prime producer of saffron, has been cultivating the crimson spice in the valley for hundreds of years.
Pampore, some 13 kilometres south of Srinagar, is well known for cultivating the spice and is often called Saffron Town for growing the best quality saffron.
Pampore accounts for nearly 90 per cent of the saffron produced in the State.
The purple waves of saffron fields are a huge draw for tourists who visit Jammu and Kashmir.
Every year, as October sets in, every member belonging to families in the town can be seen plucking the crocus flowers and collecting them in wicker baskets.
After picking the crocus flowers from the fields, the sorting process of pulling the saffron from the purple-hued flowers begins and is often a family enterprise.
The dainty saffron filaments are ranked one of the most expensive spices by weight in the world.
It takes over 4,500 crocus flowers to make just one ounce of saffron, making it a very high-priced ingredient for cooking.
Saffron gives a distinct flavour and colour to food and in India, and it is used in most Moghul cuisine.
The Kashmir saffron known for its aroma, colour and medicinal value was given the GI tag in 2020.
Also read: Kashmir saffron gets GI tag
Unplanned construction and industrial activities have shrunk the land under saffron cultivation in Kashmir.
There has been an 80 per cent decrease in the yield of the cash crop in the State over the last two decades, according to officials and cultivators.
From 7000 hectares in Pampore tehsil alone in 1990, the land under saffron cultivation has reduced to 3600 hectares in entire Kashmir.
Saffron growers in Pampore have said that there has been a sharp decline in the yield over the years.
Despite efforts by the agriculture department to introduce saffron cultivation in areas with topography similar to Pampore, the crop is still facing the threat of extinction.
The National Saffron Mission was set up in 2010 to help restore the saffron sector.
Amongst other things, they provided sprinklers and taps to help irrigation and conducted research to enhance productivity. But the mission has failed to fulfil its targets.