Saffron and Heeng are the most valuable spices of the world and widely used in Indian cuisine. India is well known as the ‘Land of spices’, but still we have to import some of the important spices. Today, Indian spices are the most sought-after globally, given their delicate aroma, texture, taste and medicinal value. India is the world’s largest producer, consumer and exporter of spices. In India, there is no production of Heeng and currently, about 1200 tons of raw Heeng worth Rs600 crore is being imported from different countries. Similarly, the annual demand for Saffron spice is 100 tons per year but its average production is about 6-7 tons per year. Hence a large amount of Saffron is being imported from Iran, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan.
The Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (CSIR-IHBT) and the Department of Agriculture, Government of Himachal Pradesh have forged strategic and implementation partnership to increase the production of these two spices in India. This partnership is expected to provide huge benefits to Himachal Pradesh with increased farm income, livelihood promotion, and rural development. Many steps will be taken for the development such as skill development, transfer of innovations by means of capacity building and other extension activities of farmers and officers.
“Introduction of these crops will reduce the import. CSIR-IHBT will provide technical know-how to the farmers, impart training to state agriculture department officers and farmers, and set up corm and speed production centres of Saffron and Heeng, in the state,” said Dr Sanjay Kumar, IHBT.
At present, about 2825 hectares of land is under cultivation of Saffron in Jammu and Kashmir. A state of art tissue culture lab will be established for large scale production of these crops. IHBT has developed the production technology for Saffron in non- traditional areas of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
The Palampur located institute are working on the six accessions of Heeng from Iran, and standardized its production protocols under Indian conditions. Heeng is a perennial plant, and can be grown in unutilized sloppy land of cold desert region.
“Besides providing technical support for the achievement of physical targets of the project, we will also undertake technical supervision of Saffron production areas. A total of 750 acres of land will be covered under these crops in the state in next five years,” said Dr. Kumar.
“This programme will improve the well being of the farmers by providing better income prospects and the state will be benefited by cultivation of these high-value crops,” said Dr. R. K. Koundal, Director of the Department of Agriculture (Himachal Pradesh).
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