Connect with us

AgriBiz

Kashmir’s only rabbit farm seeks to popularise cuniculture among valleyities

Published

on

Kashmir’s only rabbit farm

Malik Nisar

Syed Jesarat

Wussan, Baramulla: To popularise rabbit farming for augmenting meat and fur production and providing a healthy alternative to mutton for voracious meat-eaters of Kashmir, the J&K Government established Angora Rabbit Farm in 1979 at the Wussan village of Baramulla district.

Though, the rabbit meat has failed to satiate the taste buds of Kashmiri people as the project did not witness much commercial success. However, due to the recent rising trend of pet keeping in Kashmir, the farm has become a centre of attraction. Rabbit rearing has become the most popular hobby among pet lovers, particularly children, and teenagers.

Run by the Sheep Husbandry Department, the only rabbit breeding farm of Kashmir and probably the biggest in North India sprawls on six hectares of land. About 30 km from Srinagar, the Angora Rabbit Farm is home to several rabbit varieties and breeds imported from different countries. Even new species are regularly brought in either from foreign or from various states of the country.

Presently, seven rabbit species breed in the Angora Rabbit Farm: Californian White, New Zealand White, Angora German, Angora French, Grey Giant, Black Brown and Soviet Chinchilla. Different breeds have different qualities. While the Angora is considered a well-known breed for fur and wool, Grey Giant and others are best known for providing quality meat. Similarly, people prefer to buy the Russian Chinchilla and German Angora for keeping them as pets.

Around 1800-2000 rabbits rear in five sheds of the farm at Wussan. Presently there are 1200 rabbits, both kits and adults, on the farm. These rabbits are available on sale around the year. However, during the winter, the number goes down to 500-600. As the breeding stops during the winter season due to extreme cold.

“During the winters, a rabbit needs extra care, which is also the reason that less number keeps for December, January and February, the harshest three months. The breeding commences again in March when the weather improves,” says Dr Sheikh Ishrat Mahmood, who works as an Assistant Director with the Sheep Husbandry Department and is the present caretaker of the farm.

According to the official website of the Sheep Husbandry Department, the farm was started with the 60 New Zealand White rabbits purchased from Gharsa, Himachal Pradesh. The aim was to popularise the consumption of rabbit meat as a substitute for sheep and goat meat among the general masses and create a new avenue of employment for the youth. While the rabbit meat evinced week response among the public, high demand for rabbit wool and fur could not generate much enthusiasm among the entrepreneurs for establishing their private units. This limited the scope of the farm.

At present, rabbits in Kashmir have only three uses. Youngsters rear them as pets, researchers use them as guinea pigs, and some people with cardiac problems eat them as rabbit meat is considered lean and white with high nutritious value.

However, in recent years rearing them as pets have become very popular across Kashmir. While the cute and fluffy rabbits are liked by one and all, in the traditional homes, they have much more acceptability as compared to dogs and cats, who are mostly considered unclean animals.

“Besides slaughter purpose, we sell rabbits to pet shop owners, as well as, researchers from GMC and SKUAST-K, who try vaccines and drugs on them,” says Dr Ishrat.

Last year the farm revenue from the rabbit sales was Rs 6 lakh. According to the farm officials, the sale figure has grown considerably. “Though from last few years, rabbit rearing as pets is gaining popularity across Kashmir, but we want more and more people to know about the farm,” says Dr Ishrat.

“Rabbit farming is very profitable, and one enjoys doing it. It is a great business idea with huge employment generation potential. Only thing is that we need to create more and more awareness,” he says.

A research scholar of livestock production and management from NDRA, Dr Ishfaq Jamal, writes that there is tremendous scope for poverty alleviation and improving the living standards of small and marginal farmers through the profitable enterprise of cuniculture.

Cuniculture is the agricultural practise of breeding and raising domestic rabbits as livestock for their meat, fur, wool or pelt. “Rabbit fanciers and hobbyists also employ cuniculture for the development and betterment of rabbit breeds and the exhibition of their efforts. Scientists practice cuniculture in the use and management of rabbits as model organisms in research. Cuniculture has been practised all over the world since at least the 5th century.”

According to Dr Ishfaq, there is immense scope for rabbit farming in Kashmir, as the climatic conditions of J&K and Himachal Pradesh are almost similar. The government of HP has promoted rabbit farming along with sheep farming and obtained good results in hilly areas, he writes.

“If properly planned and promoted, rabbit farming can turn into a multi-crore industry soon. There is a need of a proper policy framework, planning as well as collaboration between the Departments of Animal and Sheep Husbandry, agricultural universities and related institutions for framing a composite policy to promote rabbit farming,” says Dr Ishfaq in a newspaper column.

Feeding and rearing of rabbits at Wussan Farm

When it comes to the feeding of rabbits at the Wussan Farm, proper care is taken. The rabbits are fed with nutritious food such as greens, turnips, carrots, cabbage leaves. Rabbits drink clean drinking water twice a day. The feeding items are different for the winter and summer seasons. In the summer season, only greens are given to rabbits, while in the winter season, chopped vegetables are provided as well. Most of the food items are grown within the farm area itself such as radish and carrots. Rabbits are also fed with pellets in addition to greens and vegetables. Kits are fed half of what adults are given.

“We have an agriculture farm here as well where we grow fodder for rabbits,” says Dr Irfan Magray, the farm manager and veterinary doctor.

Random eating is avoided for the proper growth and good health of the rabbit.

Rabbits are reared mainly for three purposes – domestication as pets, research models (guinea pigs) and consumption.

“Rabbits can produce many kits at a time unlike other animals, which is what makes it very good economically,” says Dr Irfan Magray.

Rabbit is known for its fast multiplication, short gestation period of about 32 days and a litter size of about 6-8. So out of a small unit one can have 4-5 crops annually, so from a small unit, one can get hundreds of kindlings per year. Also, its constant state of reproduction, rapid growth and early maturity adds to its high biological potential.

“We usually keep the parental stock with us and give the kits,” he adds.

Young single rabbits are sold within the price range from ₹200 – ₹800, depends upon the breed, where Grey Giant, Black Brown, Soviet Chinchilla costs ₹200 per rabbit and New Zealand White, California White sells for ₹300 per rabbit whereas Angora breed is sold at ₹500 per piece. The pair is sold from 1000 or above.

Rabbits are sold to customers which in turn start their venture at a smaller level for rearing purposes. “I visit the farm often and take rabbits for my venture,” says Gulam Nabi Sofi from Khaag, Budgam. “For a pet lover, this is the best place to visit,” he adds.

“The farm has different breeds and I had taken many rabbits from them, I keep rabbits as pets,” says another customer from Srinagar. “The farm has maintained all sort of hygiene practices and every staff member is cooperative,” he further says.

“The best sellers among the rabbits have always been Angora rabbits, as they are famous for their wool, which is considered second best after pashmina,” says Dr Ishrat.

The life expectancy of a rabbit is 5-6 years. “The mortality rate of the rabbits has come down from 10-12% to 4.5% since last three years,” he adds.

 Around 18 employees are working on the farm: 10 technical staff and eight helpers. Each one of them is strictly looking at the management of the farm and rabbit farming.

“This farm is only of its kind in the whole J&K,” says Dr Ishrat.

Talking about the plan ahead, Dr Ishrat says now they want to open units of the farm at various parts to avoid third-party interface. “We have sent a request to the higher authority to open up the farm units at different places where we have high acceptability of the rabbits,” says Dr Ishrat.

In addition to this, the rabbit farm intends to do training programmes and attract more youth towards rabbit farming. The farm display, its stall at Kisan Melas as well. “We can also help the\youth by giving them employment and also technical know-how free of cost,” says Dr Ishrat.

“The rabbit farming has a great scope in the Valley but awareness is needed, we do as much publicity as we can.”

“The funds the farm gets are not sufficient for infrastructure,” Dr Ishrat. “We want to attract more customers, but we lack funds,” he adds.

The medical supervision of the rabbits is planned in accordance with the help they need. “Usually, we do flock treatment but if someone needs individual treatment, we give full attention to it, we give them anti cognizant drugs with water if needed,” says Dr Irfan.

Rabbit farming is a lucrative business, which demands attention from the government as well as the individual level.

 

 

 

 

AgriBiz

Deteriorating legacy of saffron industry in Kashmir

Published

on

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

Continue Reading

AgriBiz

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

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading

AgriBiz

Can kiwi cultivation prove alternative to apple production in Kashmir?

Published

on

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

Continue Reading

Trending