Here’s Why The Modi Government Wants To Promote Kashmiri Saffron In The Global Market

Here’s Why The Modi Government Wants To Promote Kashmiri Saffron In The Global MarketKashmiri Saffron flower. 
  • Three reasons why the Modi government is promoting Kashmiri saffron.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing his monthly radio programme “Mann Ki Baat” on 27 December, asked the people to buy Kashmiri saffron and said the Union Government would make it a globally popular brand.

Modi’s reference to the Kashmiri saffron comes on the heels of the commodity being given the geographical indication (GI) tag in May this year. The GI tag gives a distinct identity to a product that it originates from a particular place and has special qualities or traits.

On 8 December, Kashmir saffron was launched at the United Arab Emirates-India Food Summit 2020 by Jammu and Kashmir principal secretary (Agriculture) Navin K Choudhary.

It was the first time that the unique Kashmiri product was introduced in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) market. It was also the first time that the product was exported after it got the GI tag.

Modi, referring to the launch, said Kashmiri saffron has been introduced in a UAE supermarket and its exports were expected to rise.

Modi, in his address, referred to how Abul Fazal, a courtier in Emperor Akbar’s court visited Kashmir and had found the saffron, said: “Saffron has been associated with Kashmir for centuries. It is grown in areas such as Pulwama, Budgam and Kishtwar.”

Saffron, a renowned spice in the global market known as red gold, has many medicinal benefits. Like gold, it can be stored and kept for many years.

Kashmiri saffron can be recognised by its unique dark maroon-purple hue and is thread-like in its format. The saffron flower has six purple petals, three golden stamens and a red pistil.

There are a couple of reasons why the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is trying to promote Kashmir saffron.

One, Kashmiri saffron can ensure good returns within a short span of time for an entire family. The plant’s uniqueness is that it is not vulnerable to pests and fungus.

Its cultivation involves light work that an entire family can be involved. No chemical is involved in growing the crop, which begins to give good returns within two years.

There is a guaranteed demand for saffron which will ensure that a grower or a family cultivating it can be assured of continuous income. Globally, demand for saffron has been growing at a compounded annual growth rate of nearly 15 per cent since 2014.

The demand for saffron has been driven by the food and beverage industry. In food, saffron is used as a flavouring agent, spice and yellow food colouring, which makes it one of the most preferred spices for consumers.

Second, encouraging Kashmir saffron will improve production and thus bring down sharply or to zero imports of the spice from other countries.

Though India is the second-largest producer of saffron, it figures twelfth in the list of exporting nations. Over the last few years, the country has been a net importer of the spice, buying quantities valued at nearly $18 billion annually.

This is mainly in view of production unable to meet growing demand.

The Indian Spices Board has grouped saffron as other spices-2 along with tamarind, asafoetida (hing) and cassia. Thus, not much details are available specifically on the spice in terms of its production and exports.

The other spices-2 exports increased 15 per cent in volume and two per cent in value during the first half of the current fiscal to 17,750 tonnes valued at Rs 2,510 crore compared with 15,500 tonnes valued at Rs 2,472 crore during the year-ago period.

This is a fair enough indication of the low priority accorded to a wonderful spice such as the Kashmir saffron until now.

Currently, Iran is the number one global producer and exporter of saffron. It makes up 90 per cent of global production and accounts for 70 per cent of the world’s exports.

The third reason why the Government is looking to promote Kashmiri saffron is the price it commands in the retail markets. It is the costliest spice in the world, with the costs ranging between Rs 400 per gram to over Rs 1,000 for organic ones at retail outlets.

The spice is costly because it takes 15,000-16,000 flowers to make a kg of saffron. The entire process involves manual labour and hence it is so pricey.

Since a family can earn good returns without putting in much effort, probably the Modi government thinks that the Kashmir saffron can be one way to help the population not just earn precious foreign exchange but also enjoy a unique status in the world spice market.

M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani


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