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SKUAST-K flags off sericulture students for rural exploration visit

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SKUAST-K flags off sericulture students

BK News

Srinagar, March 17: To benefit students from the indigenous traditional knowledge and grassroots innovations, Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Kashmir commenced a seven-day ‘Rural Exploration Training Programme’ for sericulture students to far-flung areas of Uri Tehsil.

The training is organised by the university’s College of Temperate Sericulture (CoTS), Mirgund under the World Bank-ICAR funded National Agricultural Higher Education Project (NAHEP) for the institutional development of the SKUAST-K.

Vice-Chancellor, SKUAST-K, Prof Mushtaq Ahmad flagged off the students for the rural exploration in the presence of Director Planning and Monitoring and PI NAHEP, Prof Nazir Ahmad Ganai, and Associate Dean, CoTS, Prof MF Baqual.

Speaking on the occasion, the vice-chancellor said organising such activities will build and nurture students for the sustainable approaches of agriculture practices as these rural pockets have a repository of indigenous knowledge.

He said, alongside modern techniques and knowledge, students must be aware of these age-old agriculture practices, which are environment friendly and sustainable.

The V-C also distributed certificates of merit among students who were involved in awareness programmes regarding the COVID19 pandemic programme.

Director of Education, Prof MH Balkhi, in his message, said that such events will help in shaping our students by exposing them to far-flung areas, where agriculture is the mainstay.

Prof Nazir Ahmad Ganai, who was the guest of honour, said these kinds of exploration visits help students to build their understanding of the rural economy and the role of agriculture in the livelihood of the majority of the people.

Prof MF Baqual highlighted the importance of the training programme for building the skills and the confidence of the students. He thanked the vice-chancellor and PI NAHEP for extending their support to the programme.

Organising secretary of the programme, Dr Firdose Ahmed Malik highlighted the impact of the rural exploration programme in improving the comprehension of students and understand rural life by way of living, eating and working in deep and backward areas of Uri.

Dr Zia-ul-Haque and Dr KA Sahaf delivered the welcome address and the vote of thanks respectively.

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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Can kiwi cultivation prove alternative to apple production in Kashmir?

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Can kiwi cultivation prove alternative to apple production in Kashmir?

Dhaar Mehak M

Misbah Bashir

The horticulture sector is seen as the backbone of the Kashmir economy steadily replacing the tourism sector in terms of sustainability and future prospectus. Given the environmental feasibility, Kashmir has been identified as one of India’s most dynamic horticulture hotspots. During the final decades of the 20th century, the region of Kashmir has seen a steady shift from paddy cultivation to apple cultivation. For quite some time the output and outcomes from the orchards of Kashmir have been high. This has ushered in a wave of optimism and people have been heavily investing in high-yielding apple varieties. More or less on an annual basis, people have revealed satisfaction with the outcomes.

Can kiwi cultivation prove alternative to apple production in Kashmir?

The year 2022 has been identified as a bumper year of apple production in Kashmir (apart from other horticulture products). The apple blooms in spring were studied and identified by the experts where it was predicted that the year from across the valley was going to deliver a bumper crop. A wave of happiness ad optimism ran in the supply chain from orchardists to the dealers. Given the demand and pricing trends of previous years, the expected outcomes from 2022 were anticipated to surpass the mean value of the previous decades by a double-digit. However, as the output was ready and entered the market, the returning price was the lowest registered in the previous decade. Among many other factors, a predominant factor behind this was the bulk Indian import of Iranian and Turkish Apples that captured the market and wiped out the demand for Kashmiri apples.

Looking through an alternative economic and horticultural lens, the complete reliance on apples as the sole and dominant outcome of the horticulture sector in Kashmir is a risk of putting all the eggs in one basket. The first step to diversification has been identified as a steady production of kiwi fruit. In contemporary times the only state that is producing kiwis in India is Himachal Pradesh. Lately, Himachal orchardists have realized that diversification is important, and the immediate consequence has been a steady shift to kiwi production. The environmental conditions in both Himachal and Kashmir are equally preferable for kiwi production.

Can kiwi cultivation prove alternative to apple production in Kashmir?The plantation season for kiwi trees is February and March, while the irrigation season is May to July. The plantation takes much less land space than the apple trees. Vegetables and other seasonal crops can be grown in-between the kiwi tress. There are no pesticides of any kind needed for kiwi plantations while on the other hand the apples of all types highly rely on a number of pesticides, insecticides and herbicides. This quality makes kiwis organic in nature, better fitting the contemporary market demand. The overall maintenance of kiwi plantations is much easier and cheaper as compared to that of apples. At the same time, the demand and prices for kiwis in the local, national and international markets is much stable as compared to that of apples.

In the first week of November the average price of 18 kgs of Apples in Sopore Mandi peaked at Rs.350 which doesn’t even cover the half basic price of production. Quite contrary to this, one unit of kiwi costs Rs.35 in the local market and one kiwi plant yields 70 kg of kiwis on an average. One kg of dried Kiwis costs Rs.1800 in the market. And the demand for kiwis is very high both in the national and the international markets.

At the moment, SKUAST-K is actively researching in the direction of improvising the kiwi plantation suitable specifically to the Kashmir region. Simultaneously, sale of the kiwi trees is carried-out from time to time. Lately a small number of orchardists from the Baramulla and Sopore area of North Kashmir have been steadily diversifying towards kiwi production. However, during their experimental stages, they are more than happy with their outcomes. The market value of the output has been promising and so is the durability of the output. The kiwi packaging however is different from that of the apple packages and the kiwi farmers of Kashmir complain that at the moment they are not able to find the required packaging solutions.

Can kiwi cultivation prove alternative to apple production in Kashmir?Putting all these factors together, kiwi production can be the next big horticulture venture of Kashmir. Risk minimisation is the first and far most expected benefit from this diversification. If due to some market fluctuations, apples fail to fetch the required price in the market the kiwi market can come to cushion and minimize the damage and losses. The second expected spill-over of kiwi diversification can come in the form of growth in the local corrugated industry. In the present time, the Kashmir corrugation industry mostly specializes in the production of apple boxes. However, with the growth of kiwi production, the corrugation industry will get to diversify and increase its output and employment potential. The cold-store industry of Kashmir is also expected to grow with the growth of kiwi production as the local producers can control the market supplies from time to time in light of the expected profits. The kiwi processing units also have a very high potential of starting up in the region.

 

The authors are affiliated to the Department of Economics, Islamic University of Science and Technology Awantipora & can be reached at dhaarmehak@gmail.com & misbahbashir1223@gmail.com

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