We need to understand it’s nature,” says Sattar, a scholar-in-residence and a leading exponent of the field. “If you want to understand the role of saffron in food production and its impact in the country, we need access to it in the country,” he explains. “There is an immense need to understand the complex biological, economic and social factors that have helped make India a food-growing country,” he says.
The government of Bihar launched the saffron movement in the 1990s as a response to the drought. The state, which has 15 per cent of the country’s population of the country’s food-production, has not received any federal funds since its inception. But after the state became the first of India’s 13 states to receive the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited Food Program from the National Food Security Act of 2016, saffron growers in the state are now seeing an increase in prices and increasing profits.
The Nafpl, which is one of the largest producers of saffron in India, has been receiving around Rs 1 lakh per saffron seed, in addition to the costs associated with getting seeds from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), which is often accused of being biased. The Nafpl currently has six million saffron seeds and produces 60 to 70 tonnes of the flowers. The seeds cost Rs 5,000 per kg or Rs 20,000 per quintal. The cost of the actual production of a quintal is around Rs 3,500 per quintal.
At the present time, the government does not fund seed storage facilities (SSPs) with a minimum seed storage requirement. However, even if seed storage facilities are provided, farmers in other states say that farmers may have to pay up to Rs 2,000-$ 3,000 per quintal of the seeds when compared to Rs 70 to Rs 120 in Bihar. With prices climbing, farmers have been putting a lot of time and money into ensuring that their seeds are safe. So, when a seed storage facility is not available in Bihar, farmers may not be able to afford to buy seed which would help ensure they will receive the maximum yield from the crop.
“In the future, a facility may be provided for ensuring safe storage of saffron,” says Dinesh Kumar, director, Bihar Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), adding that a facility could be provided for seed protection and harvesting. “There is no such an obligation for Maharashtra
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