In a unique experiment, a few farmers in the Mahabaleshwar hill station area of Maharashtra have planted Himalayan saffron for the first time.
The saffron flowers have started blooming in Mahabaleshwar which has low temperature, suitable soil and is at 4,500 ft above mean sea level location.
The spice derived from the saffron flowers stigma is the most costliest in the world and in the domestic market, it fetches ₹3-3.5 lakh per kg.
Strawberry loses ground
The farmers are keeping their fingers crossed and are waiting for the full bloom in January hoping the temperature does not rise beyond a certain threshold due to global warming. The local agriculture officers have sourced the planting material in the form of bulbs from the Kishtwar region of Jammu and Kashmir. Mahabaleshwar is already well known for its strawberries extensively cultivated here for the last three decades.
Ganesh Jambhle, a farmer from Mahabaleshwar, said that the cultivation cost of he fruit has been rising over the years, while the income doesn’t go beyong ₹3.5 lakh per acre. Therefore, he was looking for alternative crops and realised that the saffron bulb can yield the flowers for 10 years. On the other hand, strawberry requires replanting every year from the nurseries to the fields.
If the experiment is successful, then one acre could yield over 2-3 kg of saffron, which will provide much better revenue than the strawberries.
Jambhle’s efforts are supported by the District Superintendent of Agriculture, Vijay Raut, who told BusinessLine that the spice plant requires 10 degrees centigrade of temperature, which is present in Mahabaleshwar from November to January. This year, due to extended rains, the planting could not happen in August, but it was carried out in October and the farmers are waiting for the January harvest.
Ganesh Borde, Agriculture Assistant of Mahabaleshwar, said the cultivation of saffron is very difficult because obtaining a kg of saffron spice requires processing and removing stigma from 1.5 lakh flowers.