Gangtok: The saffron bowl, which was till now confined to the Kashmir region, is likely to get expanded to the Northeastern part of India. Plants that were transported from Kashmir to Sikkim and acclimatised there are now flowering in Yangyang in the Southern part of the state.
The Pampore region, which is commonly known as the ‘Saffron bowl of Kashmir’ is one of the highest saffron-producing districts in the union territory followed by Budgam, Srinagar, and Kishtiwar districts.
Saffron has traditionally been associated with the famous Kashmiri cuisine. Along with it, it also has medicinal value and is considered to be a part of the rich cultural heritage of Kashmir.
As saffron growth was only confined to very specific areas in Kashmir, its production largely remained limited. Though the National Mission on Saffron focused on several measures to improve its farming, the measures were still limited to the specified areas of Kashmir.
Through the North East Centre for Technology Application and Reach (NECTAR), an autonomous body under the department of science & technology, the government of India supported a pilot project to explore the feasibility of growing saffron in the Northeastern region of India, with the same quality and higher quantity.
The Botany and Horticulture department of Sikkim Central University carried out tests to understand the soil and actual pH conditions of Yangyang of Sikkim and found similarities with saffron growing places in Kashmir. Saffron seed/corms were purchased and air transported from Kashmir to the Yangyang site by the department.
One saffron grower was engaged and stationed to look after the complete growing process, along with the faculty of the university.
The seeds were irrigated during September and October, which ensured timely corm sprouting and good flower yields. The matching of climatic and geographical conditions between Pampore in Kashmir and Yangyang in Sikkim led to the successful sample farming of Saffron in Yangyang.
The project also focused on post-harvest management and value addition of saffron so that quality saffron drying and efficient post-harvest processing can improve saffron recovery, thereby improving its production.
Further, detailed analysis and testing of all parameters, including soil testing, quality, quantity, and possible value addition are planned, for immediate results and extrapolation of the project to other parts of the North East Region along with Micro Food Enterprises.