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Dir Horticulture finalises arrangements for buyer-seller meet

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BK News 

Srinagar, Sept 30: Director Horticulture Kashmir, Ajaz Ahmad Bhat Wednesday chaired a meeting of concerned officers to finalise arrangements for Buyer-Seller meet here.

The department is organizing a Buyer-Seller meet on the pattern of Sunday Market within the premises of Directorate of Horticulture Kashmir shortly.

During the meeting, the director informed that Buyer-Seller meet shall open opportunity for the farmers to sell their produce directly and avoiding the brokers.

He also instructed all the Chief Horticulture Officers to mobilize few orchardists from their respective districts for bringing their produce in the Buyer-Seller meet.

Horticulture Information and Publication Officer was also directed to make all the required arrangements for the installation of stalls etc

It was also informed that all SOPs issued by the Government from time to time for containing COVID-19 spread shall be followed strictly during the event.

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SKUAST-K developed maize variety released at national level 

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SKUAST-K developed maize variety

KDM-30 released for cultivation in J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Uttara Khand, Assam, Meghalaya, Ladakh and Manipur

BK News

Srinagar, May 6: Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir (SKUAST-K) developed maize variety has been released recently at the national level for cultivation in the cold climatic Northern Hill Zone of the country.

Cold resistant early maturing high yield maize composite, KDM-30, suitable for cultivation in J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Assam, Meghalaya, Ladakh and Manipur, was recently released in the 66th Annual Maize Workshop held at GBPUAT, Pantnagar, Uttarakhand.

“The variety (KDM-30) performs better than the best national check, Vijay with 13% more grain yield and moderate resistance to diseases and pests like Turcicum Leaf Blight and Maizw Stem Borer,” said Dr Zahoor Ahmad Dar, associate director at the SKUAST-K’s Dryland Agriculture Research Station (DARS), Rangreth, Budgam.

Dar, who along with Dr Ajaz Ahmad Lone was leading the team of scientists involved in developing this cold-resistant maize variety, said KDM-30, besides being highly cold tolerant, gives more yield and better disease protection than Vijay, which is considered the best maize variety in the country.

The maize composite is derived from materials obtained from international and national nurseries, which were subsequently hybridized with the local material to incorporate uniqueness like cold tolerance, early maturity, and high grain quality.

The SKUAST-K developed maize variety possesses a high level of carotenoids as well as the unique expression of cold-tolerance-regulated enzymes at the molecular level. The KDM-30 is going to replace Kishen Ganga-1 (KG-1) variety in high-altitude areas of the Northern Hill Zone (up to 2500m amsl) and can be a potential candidate to serve in cold arid Ladakh Region as a dual-purpose crop where it has been initially evaluated for grain-to-grain maturity in native cropping window.

While congratulating Dr Zahoor Ahmad Dar and Dr Ajaz Ahmad Lone for developing the high-yield maize variety, Vice Chancellor, SKUAST-K, Prof Nazir Ahmad Ganai, directed upscaling seed production and utilizing rain-fed ecologies for grain and fodder production to sustain the dairy and poultry industry.

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AgriBiz

Deteriorating legacy of saffron industry in Kashmir

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Saffron industry in Kashmir
Athar Ayoub
Dhaar Mehak M  

Saffron industry in Kashmir

One of the oldest and yielding family occupations prevalent in the valley of Kashmir has been the cultivation of Saffron. The karewas of Pampore are internationally known for the quality and quantity of saffron across the world. Through the ups and downs of time and periods of natural and man-prompted disasters, this sector has been quietly yielding a stable and rather steadily growing output over the period of time. Generations after generation have been associated with the cultivation and rearing of saffron. People across the binary gender, residing predominantly in the Pampore area have been habitually and evolutionarily working in this sector.

On the technical side, though India ranks second only after Iran in terms of productivity of cultivation in Saffron it ranks seven. This points to the existence of huge inefficiency in the saffron production of the country. For years at a stretch, there has been under-production happening in the saffron production of the country. More than 90% of India’s saffron cultivation comes from Kashmir, estimated to be around 15.04 metric tonnes (MT) for the year 2021. However, for the last fifty years, there has been a considerable decline in both the cultivable land and the overall Saffron productivity in the valley of Kashmir. While in the year 2009, the total area under cultivation for Saffron was 2667 hectares with a production of 5.61 tonnes, almost a decade earlier in 1997 it was 5707 hectares and 15.97 tonnes respectively. These numbers highlight a decline of 114% in area and 184% in yield in a time period as short in span as 12 years.

For years at a stretch, there has been under-production happening in the saffron production of the country. More than 90% of India’s saffron cultivation comes from Kashmir, estimated to be around 15.04 metric tonnes (MT) for the year 2021. However, for the last fifty years, there has been a considerable decline in both the cultivable land and the overall Saffron productivity in the valley of Kashmir. While in the year 2009, the total area under cultivation for Saffron was 2667 hectares with a production of 5.61 tonnes, almost a decade earlier in 1997 it was 5707 hectares and 15.97 tonnes respectively. These numbers highlight a decline of 114% in area and 184% in yield in a time period as short in span as 12 years.

Results like these are an outcome of a number of factors that have cumulated over the years. Some of the most commonly identified factors include; lack of availability of good-quality corms as seed material, poor soil fertility, lack of assured irrigation, infestation by rodents and diseases, poor postharvest management, improper marketing facilities, increased urbanization on saffron land, the helplessness of the Government in checking adulteration and clandestine smuggling of cheap saffron (allegedly from Iran), which is later sold and marketed in the name of Kashmir saffron.

Simultaneously from time to time, certain measures have been put in place to restrain the underproduction in Saffron cultivation, so as to bring in a change and reach as closer to the potential output as possible. The fundamental channel of intervention and attainment of the aspired output is from the government directly to the grower. Quite contrary to this, the existence of intermediaries leads to multiple failures towards the attainment of the prosed outcomes. Analysing the current trends, it turns out that in the past decades the maximum marketing margins were accumulated within the pockets of intermediaries (retailers and agents) followed by wholesalers, leaving the primary saffron growers with an unfair share of their very own produce.

The saffron growers reveal that in contemporary times the causes of less productivity across the Kashmir region are: climate change, non-availability of timely irrigation and information asymmetry between those framing the policies for the farmers and the farmers themselves. Though the government has been initiating measures to revamp the damage, the Saffron cultivators conclude that almost 60% of the land under which saffron is cultivated was brought under a pipeline network scheduled to irrigate the land. However, in practice, the project has been full of flaws and thus ended up failing miserably. Leaving the land yet again to the mercy of timely and untimely rains. The saffron growers in the first place lack scientific knowledge, do not have access to modern know-how and technology and at the same time lack all sorts of trust over the government. One such typical example is the sale of hybrid saffron corms that the government announced some years ago. Given the mistrust between the people and the government, it was rumoured that the sowing of the hybrid saffron corm distributed by the department of agriculture will transfer the private property rights of the owners to the government. As a result, the vast majority of saffron cultivators didn’t take those corms and the productivity and output ended up remaining under-attained.

Whatever interventions the government and administration intend to make, the campaign of enhancing the productivity of saffron would not bear the desired results unless for starters a certain level of trust is established between the saffron cultivators and the government. Following this, facilities for assured irrigation need to be created, at least at the pre-sprouting and pre-flowering stages. Irrigation facilitates lead quick activation of buds, further leading to the corm sprouting and the eventual timely flower initiation. An empirical study by Nehvi (2004), and Nehvi and Makhdoomi (2007b) bring forth the fact that an annual saffron crop requires an average of 10 irrigations, and needs to be sprinkler irrigated for seven days at the sprouting stage (which is approximately around 25th August to 15th September) followed by three irrigations at the post-flowering stage (around 8th to 30th November) at weekly intervals.

In a recent and rather unusual move, the Government of India initiated a National Saffron Mission (year) with a financial outlay of Rs 3.74 billion for resolving the saffron crisis in Kashmir through different programmes. This program includes rejuvenating saffron farms by corm re-planting, digging bore wells for irrigation, and setting up a modern Saffron Park with a quality control laboratory for providing adequate marketing cover to saffron growers, thus eliminating exploitation by middlemen. However, from the ground, there are mixed reactions and opinions coming from the farmers about the initiation and implementation of the mission. The actual attained outcome from this mission and its various programs is yet to be ascertained for success or failure.                                                        Saffron Industry in Kashmir.

Saffron Industry in Kashmir

Case-Study

“The JK Agro” is a registered saffron firm which has been gainfully employing generations of the Khanday family from Pampore. It has been around six years since the third generation has overtaken the business. The upcoming generations from the saffron families have been trying to expand and diversify the business. One of the most common channels has been through proper marketing, e-marketing and processing of the saffron and allied products. JK Agro, in an attempt to expand, has been making huge investments. But the major hurdle faced by it in attaining the expected growth has been the declining productivity of output. As a result, the younger generation of small and medium-scale saffron farmers have steadily been moving out from the industry and instead looking for other sources of employment. However, families like Khanday’s are of the opinion that complete dependency on saffron might not be enough to fulfil their subsistence needs and hence are trying hard to find jobs distant from their ancestral domain…

Given the various facets discussed above, the broader conclusion drawn is that the decline in the cultivable land and productivity of saffron in Kashmir is the basic reason behind the ever-increasing crisis in the heritage-saffron industry of Kashmir. The most appropriate channel to win back the industry and the people associated with it is to stake strict actions towards the restoration of the karewas land and to scientifically enhance the overall productivity of the saffron in the Kashmir region.

The authors are affiliated with the Department of Economics, Islamic University of Science and Technology and can be reached at dhaarmehak@gamil.com

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Digital marketing skill training for agri-startups commences at SKUAST-K

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Digital marketing skills
BK News

Srinagar, Dec 5: A weeklong advanced management development programme (AMDP) on ‘Digital Marketing Skills for Agri-Startups’ commenced on Monday at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir Shalimar campus.

The seven-day digital marketing training is organised by SKUAST-K’s School of Agricultural Economics and Horti-Business Management, Faculty of Horticulture under the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sponsorship.

Vice Chancellor, SKUAST-K, Prof Nazir Ahmad Ganai, who was the chief guest at the inaugural function, emphasised upon outcome-based delivery of the programme and suggested that each participant should be evaluated in each session to ensure better assimilation of the content. Pointing out the existence of a 95% unskilled labour force, he stressed the need for required digital skills. He informed that SKUAST-K will be shortly starting the three-month programme on Digital Marketing in collaboration with DMI, Australia. He asked the participants to take full advantage of the resource persons, who have come from the reputed institutions of the country like IITs.

Director, Planning and Monitoring, Prof Haroon Rashid Naik emphasized imparting precision to the conduct of Advanced-MDP and desired industrial representation and participation in these programmes.

Dean, Faculty of Horticulture, Prof Shabir Ahmad Wani highlighted the need for encouragement of gender-based digital spaces. He also stressed the need for the utilisation of digital spaces for farm-based products.

Head, School of Agricultural Economics and Horti-Business Management, Prof SH Baba, in his welcome address, gave an overview of the programme. He brought out the need for acquiring high-end digital and IT skills for switching to new market jobs by 2030-31 in view of apprehension of job losses due to automation.

Assistant Director, MSME Development and Facilitation Office Srinagar Branch, Ministry of MSME, Saheel Yaqoob Allaqband, who addressed the gathering via online mode, gave a brief account on the importance of Advanced-MDP suggested that the participants should be trained in innovative DPR formulation and attract funding options for their business units.

SKUAST-K’s Director Extension Prof Dil Mohammad Makhdoomi, Director Education Prof MN Khan, Director Research Prof Sarfaraz Ahmad Wani and many other HOD and officers of the university were present at the occasion. The organising secretary of the programme, Dr Omar Fayaz Khan, presented the vote of thanks.

About 30 participants from FPOs, food processing units, Agri-supply chains, aspiring agripreneurs and students are participating in the training.

Under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), SKUAST-K is conducting 66 advanced skill development courses for entrepreneurship in various agricultural and allied vocations.

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