The Centre is eyeing expansion of saffron cultivation in the north-eastern states of Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya in collaboration with state governments to improve farm income, an official said.
Saffron is a costly spice fetching a minimum of Rs 3.5 lakh per kilogramme and is rich in bioactive compounds with therapeutic properties.
The North East Center for Technology Application and Reach (NECTAR), an autonomous body under the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, brought a good quantity of saffron seeds for the pilot project from producer groups in Kashmir in 2020.
The seeds were distributed to 64 farmers in Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, and Mizoram as part of a trial and the yield in terms of saffron seeds and flowers was above average in the pilot project, NECTAR director general Arun Sarma told PTI.
The pilot project for the cultivation of saffron found that the soil and climatic conditions of certain parts of the North East are suitable for cultivation of saffron, the official said.
Sharma said his office in collaboration with the respective state governments in these states is ready for expansion of the saffron cultivation project.
At the NECTAR office here, Sarma has a team that looks after the saffron cultivation project exclusively which is being led by senior officer Collin Z. Renthlei, a scientist, and other programme associates.
Collin, who had earlier been posted in Jammu and Kashmir, played a crucial role in the pilot project of the NECTAR.
“I am happy with the results of the saffron project because although we do not get snow in most places in the North East except in Arunachal Pradesh, the yield is good,” he said.
In Meghalaya, PTI visited Mairang and Thangsning and met the farmers involved in the project where they were provided with saffron corms.
At Mairang, Sister Reshmi, who is director of Foster Care home of the Well Springs Social Service Society said she planted about 100kg of saffron seeds out of which over 2,200 flowers were harvested.
Mairang is one of the coldest places in Meghalaya with a dry arid environment from September till about March.
“We planted in the first week of October this year and within a few weeks, we harvested the flowers,” she said, adding that NECTAR buys back all the harvest.
She believes that saffron could become a cash crop for families in the Mairang area considering that the plant whose leaves are similar to that of garlic is not affected by heavy frosting during winter months.
“While all other plants have died, including vegetables, saffron plants are all green, alive and thriving,” she said.
At Thangsning, 25km south of Shillong and located under Mawkynrew Community and Rural Development Block, Pdianghun Kharumnuid reported similar yields.
“We are grateful to NECTAR and Bah Collin for having chosen us. We are the only saffron farmer in the area. We were given about 40kg of corms. We harvested more than 2,000 flowers,”Kharumnuid said. (PTI)