Saffron fragrance is all set to sail through North East. With a pilot project of saffron cultivation yielding successful results in Yangyang village of South Sikkim, the North East Centre for Technology Application & Reach (NECTAR), an autonomous body under the DST, is in the midst of bringing more sites under the ambit of high revenue aromatic crop having therapeutic value too. Soon similar projects will be rolled out at various locations in Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya.
In fact, five sites have already been identified for saffron in Meghalaya---Barapani, Cherrapunji, Mawsmai, Shillong, and Lalingtop. In Arunachal Pradesh, there is a good growth of organic saffron with flowers, experiments have shown.
The total cost of the entire project is Rs. 17.68 lakhs for Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya, said Union Minister of S&T Dr Jitendra Singh in a written reply in Lok Sabha on Wednesday. Of these, around Rs six lakhs has been earmarked for Barapani in Meghalaya.
India cultivates about 6 to 7 tonnes of saffron annually, but in order to meet the 100 tonne demand, saffron is imported. A kilo of saffron grown here costs anywhere between Rs 1.5 to Rs 2 lakh. Scientists at NECTAR feel that there is a huge demand for saffron in the domestic market. “The farmers can take up saffron cultivation to meet the domestic demand as well as export the spice as well,” they said.
According to the Trade Promotion Council of India, prior to 2020, India was the fourth-largest importer of Iranian saffron and had imported saffron worth USD 18.30 million from Iran.
Saffron – a unique agricultural product and a cash crop is well known for its therapeutic value, aroma and taste value, and multipurpose usages. The best quality is grown in the Kashmir valley and in Kishtwar in Jammu region. Saffron is cultivated mainly in Pulwama, Srinagar and Budgam. Pampore, a township in Pulwama district with around 3,200 hectares of land under cultivation, produces the most saffron in the Valley.
Though the National Saffron Mission (NSM) was launched in 2010-11 with an aim to boost the income of the saffron growers, it was applicable only for the cultivation of saffron in Jammu and Kashmir. However, in 2020, the Modi Government decided to revive the mission and expand the cultivation of saffron to the north eastern part of the country.