Global warming forces Kashmir farmers to grow saffron indoors

© AFP - TAUSEEF MUSTAFA

Farmers in Kashmir are experimenting with new techniques for growing saffron as global warming stunts traditional production of the world's most expensive spice in the Himalayan foothills.

Research is in full swing in Indian-administered Kashmir for controlled cultivation of saffron, which costs up to €4,000 a kilogram and is nicknamed “red gold” because of its vivid colour.

Agriculture scientist Nazir Ahmad Ganai said the “corn” of the saffron plant can be planted indoors but is then transferred outside into the ground, while the challenge now was to complete the entire process indoors.

“If we could cultivate in a controlled environment without taking the corn back to the field [...] then we can grow saffron anywhere in India,” Ganai told RFI.

“That way we can also beat climate change,” said the scientist, who is vice chancellor of the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology.

“This is our endeavour for the future.”

The prospects of customised saffron farming have drawn an Australian university to collaborate with his state-run institution.

Researchers were also looking at transporting “red gold” to two north-eastern Indian states which have hilly terrain matching Kashmir’s but are much more stable, an agriculture ministry official in Delhi told RFI.

As many as 150,000 flowers must be processed by hand to produce one kilo of saffron, which is used in food, medicines and cosmetics.

Researchers have warned that the slightest change in climate impacts cultivation in Kashmir, where the largest glacier has shrunk by 23 percent since 1962.


Read more on RFI English

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