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Saffron Bowl Project in Arunachal Pradesh & Meghalaya for saffron cultivation

Saffron Bowl Project in Arunachal Pradesh & Meghalaya for saffron cultivation

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  • GS 3 || Environment || Geography & Environment || Agriculture

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Saffron Bowl Project in Arunachal Pradesh & Meghalaya

Present Context:

  • Under the Saffron Bowl initiative, the North East Center for Technology Application and Reach (NECTAR) has identified a few areas in Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya for saffron cultivation.
  • For Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya, the total cost of the project is Rs. 17.68 lakhs.
  • NECTAR is an autonomous agency under the Department of Science and Technology (DST) that funded a pilot study to see if it was possible to cultivate saffron in the North East of India with the same quality and quantity as in the rest of the country.

Reason for Extending Saffron Cultivation to the North- East:

  • Initially, saffron production was limited to a few, specific parts of Kashmir, and despite the National Saffron Mission’s efforts, the production area was still too small. Bore wells were in short supply in the saffron-growing regions.
  • India produces roughly 6 to 7 tonnes of saffron each year, compared to a requirement of 100 tonnes.
  • To fulfil rising saffron demand, the Ministry of Science and Technology, through the DST, is considering expanding cultivation to some Northeastern states (Sikkim now, and later to Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh).
  • The climate and geographical conditions in Kashmir and a few Northeastern states are very similar, and organic saffron with blossoms is flourishing in Arunachal Pradesh. Sample plantations were grown in Meghalaya at the Cherrapunji, Mawsmai, and Lalingtop sites.
  • It will also diversify agriculture in the North-East and give new options for farmers.
  • The saffron bowl, which was previously limited to Kashmir, is now being expanded to the Northeast, according to the North East Centre for Technology Application and Reach (NECTAR), which has initiated the Saffron Bowl Project to investigate the viability of growing high-quality saffron in the region.

Kashmir saffron: The saffron Bowl

  • Saffron Bowl: Saffron production in the Union territory of Jammu & Kashmir has long been constrained to a small geographical area. Pampore, also known as the Saffron Bowl of Kashmir, is the leading producer of saffron, followed by Budgam, Srinagar, and Kishtiwar districts in India.
  • Origin: Saffron cultivation is thought to have begun in Kashmir about the 1st century BCE, thanks to Central Asian immigrants. Saffron is known as ‘bahukam’ in ancient Sanskrit literature.
  • Benefits: It is utilised in cosmetics and for therapeutic purposes, and it rejuvenates health.
  • Characteristics: Longer and thicker stigmas, natural deep-red colour, powerful aroma, bitter flavour, chemical-free processing, and large quantity of crocin (colouring strength), safranal (flavour), and picrocrocin are all distinguishing features of Kashmir saffron (bitterness). It is the world’s only saffron grown at an altitude of 1,600 m to 1,800 m AMSL (above mean sea level), further distinguishing it from other saffron kinds available around the world.
  • Recognition: In 2020, the Geographical Indication (GI) badge was given to Kashmir saffron, which is grown and harvested in the Karewa (highlands) of Jammu and Kashmir.

Initiatives to Promote Saffron Cultivation:

  • The National Saffron Mission: It was established by the national government in 2010 to provide financial assistance for the construction of irrigation facilities such as tube wells and sprinkler systems that would aid in the development of better crops in the saffron industry.
  • The Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (CSIR-IHBT) and the Government of Himachal Pradesh have agreed to enhance production of two spices, saffron and heeng, respectively (asafoetida).