‘Shaping the Future Farming for Better Returns’: 6th ‘Technology Exhibition cum Seed Sale Mela’ aims to popularise agriculture in Kashmir
Srinagar, Feb 19: Sher-e-Kashmir University of Science and Technology, Kashmir (SKUAST-K) is organising its yearly Farm Mela on February 28 and March 1 at Shalimar campus.
According to the university officials, the annual ‘Technology Exhibition cum Seed Sale Mela’, popularly known as Farm Mela or Kisan Mela here, has gained tremendous popularity over the years. The year’s event is the sixth annual farm Mela organised by SKUAST-K.
Farmers from the length and breadth of Kashmir visit the exhibition, which not only showcases SKUAST-K’s technological advancements in agriculture but also puts on sale planting material, seeds, livestock etc. Besides, the mela plays an important role in connecting the farmers with the agricultural experts, university academics, agripreneurs and industry people.
The theme of this year’s technology Exhibition cum Seed Sale Mela’ is ‘Shaping the Future Farming for Better Returns’, says an advertisement published by the university in a local daily recently.
Open for all, the mela will have on display various latest technologies developed in the fields of agriculture, horticulture, veterinary, fisheries, agroforestry, agri-engineering and other related fields. High-density planation will be the special focus of this year’s event. Besides, the new strides in agriculture through the use of Artificial Intelligence and other new-age technologies will be on display.
Various faculties, divisions, research stations and KVKs of the university will display the SKUAST-K developed technologies in the field of agriculture and allied sectors at the event.
Farm Mela provides an opportunity to all stakeholders to present recent developments, new products and technology to the producers, and in return, they get a chance to meet the company representatives and obtain detailed information about latest technologies, a university official said.
Agricultural information, which is dynamic due to increased farmer awareness, plays a crucial role in agricultural development and improving the livelihood of farmers, he added.
He said the Farm Mela offers an exceptional opportunity to farmers to access reliable, updated and relevant information, thus helps reduce farmers’ risk and uncertainty, and empowers them to make good decisions.
Last year, the farm mela was cut short for one day only and the exhibition for the second day was cancelled due to order regarding COVID19 restriction issued by the UT administration at that time.
Slump in Dairy Business
Tajamul Islam Salroo
Slump in Dairy Business! Dairy Business has been showing unexpected disruptions on and off for the last couple of years. And this time it is once again showing a slump. Being associated with the dairy business I have tried to come up with some possible reasons for the ongoing dairy business slump as described below.
It is observed that consumer preferences and expectations have changed over a period of time. People have become more informed and hence, expect more freshness, taste, and nutritional value in dairy products, in particular and other food products, in common. With the rise in the number of brands for the same product people have a good amount of choice to make before purchasing the one. It has been seen that consumers look at labels and ingredients and then decide what must be taken. A good percentage of consumers are inclined towards traditional dairy products while some more health-conscious people have already reduced the intake of dairy products in their day-to-day lives.
Over the last few years, many substitutes for dairy products have come up. As far as I have observed there is a distinct consumer base for different dairy products with the same application, unlike earlier times. Earlier many people used to think that milk powder was not a milk product but made from something unknown. Similarly, people could not believe milk could stay fresh for months altogether as they were not so informed about UHT processes and the hi-tech packaging that retains the freshness of these dairy products. Now consumers ask for Whole Milk Powder, Skimmed Milk Powder, Dairy Whitener, UHT Milk, Soya Milk etc. Thus, a division has been created among dairy consumers as per their choice of preferred storage and consumption.
It is also a hard fact that the present-day consumer has become quite conscious of the contamination and adulteration of essential food products. Many expect dairy products from reputed companies to be unadulterated, tested adequately before dispatching to markets and meeting all the standards of freshness, taste, and nutritional value. In the past several years the information disseminated through various media sources about contamination and adulteration has given rise to the introduction of analogue products that are being promoted as a better alternative by its manufacturers. And people have started switching to those alternatives.
We must not sideline that a section of consumers has turned health-conscious and mindful. Many people don’t want fats in their diet and they have hence moved either to skimmed milk or milk-less beverages. Nowadays a large number of people are seen taking black or green tea instead of traditional milk tea which was not the case a few years back. And that is a challenge for the dairy business.
Organic dairy products have evolved and are believed to have a smaller carbon footprint and are therefore preferred by the contemporary consumer who pays due attention to the labels and opts accordingly for the food of his choice. It is also noteworthy that small dairy business units have been established by young and educated youth to sell organic dairy products in the markets of Kashmir.
Last but not least individual economic condition over the last few years has worsened with inflation which seems to be a big reason for cutting down on daily needs to a certain extent. Though it is believed to get better in the next couple of years but the present situation is dismal.
It, therefore, becomes necessary for dairy business firms to get into a good research methodology and innovation to develop new products with an emphasis on best quality control and nutritional benefits.
An MBA graduate, Tajamul Islam Salroo is running a Dairy Processing Unit at the Lassipora Industrial Estate
SKUAST-K developed maize variety released at national level
KDM-30 released for cultivation in J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Uttara Khand, Assam, Meghalaya, Ladakh and Manipur
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.
Deteriorating legacy of saffron industry in Kashmir
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.
“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 email@example.com
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