World’s costliest spice set to bloom in HP

Shimla: The world’s costliest spice, saffron, is set to find new fields for cultivation in India. From newly formed Union Territory of Ladakh to Bharmour in Himachal Pradesh and from areas in Uttarakhand to HP Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur’s backyard of Seraj Valley, Palampur-based Council of Scientific and Industrial Research Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology is experimenting with cultivation of saffron crop and bulbs, called corms.

Further trials are on after encouraging results at a number of places in these areas. Buoyed by this, the Himachal Pradesh Agriculture Department is also planning to start pilot projects for farmers to grow saffron in Lahaul and Spiti and in Seraj Valley.

Currently in India, saffron crop is grown in pockets of Kashmir like Pampore and Kishtwar. As per CSIR-IHBT, the annual demand of the saffron in India is 100 tonnes per year, but its average production is about 6-7 tonnes per year. To meet this demand, saffron is imported from countries like Iran and Afghanistan. As per CSIR-IHBT Principal Scientist Dr Rakesh Kumar to meet there was good potential to cultivate saffron crops in other areas with similar climatic conditions of cold and dry weather which suit the crop.