High price of saffron in international market leaves Kashmir Valley farmers delighted

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Srinagar, Nov.10 (ANI): With saffron in great demand abroad and attracting a high price in the international market, delighted saffron farmers in the Kashmir Valley are anticipating handsome windfall this year.

Farmers in the valley had earlier drifted away from saffron to other crops or works after experiencing losses brought on by scanty rainfall in the valley. But now, they have taken up saffron farming again in the hope of earning a decent profit.

So enthused are they about the price that saffron is commanding in the international market, that they don't the rates to go down in the hope of making up for losses suffered previously.

According to Bashir Ahmed Dar, Director of Agriculture in Kashmir, the cost of saffron has touched Rs. 2000 (42.92 dollars) for 10 grams, and he adds that this is drawing farmers back towards saffron cultivation.

"The prices of saffron have increased manifold. As compared to last year, saffron prices have increased from Rs. 200 (4.29 US Dollars) for 10 grams to Rs. 2000 (42.92 US Dollars) for 10 grams. We have recently started an irrigation scheme. Farmers had turned away from saffron production towards rice and vegetable production, but now are turning back towards saffron cultivation. So, you can well imagine the saffron price at the international level," said Dar.

In 2007, saffron production was an estimated 6000 kilograms, while in 2008, it was 60 percent less than the target set by the agriculture department.armers are keeping their fingers crossed for a good yield in 2009.

"The rates of saffron in the market are very high and we are praying to God that we get a good saffron crop this year and the prices also remain like this," said Mehraj-U-Din.

There has also been a sharp fall in saffron production in Iran, another major saffron producer country in the world. The fall in production is being attributed to drought.

Saffron is in demand the world over because of its aroma, colouring capacity and aphrodisiac properties.

Saffron is one of the world's most expensive spices. Delicate saffron flowers are harvested in autumn. The flowers begin to bloom after the first rains, usually around mid-October when the temperature is just about right.It's a niche industry with potentially high returns. At times, it sells for more than 5,000 dollars a kilogram in India alone.

Kashmir's cool climate and rich soil with excellent drainage and organic content make the location an ideal thriving ground for this spice, but a lapse in any one of these conditions can also spoil the entire crop.

Saffron is cultivated on the high plateau land on the outskirts of Srinagar and the crop is rain-fed. By Parvez Butt (ANI)

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