New Delhi [India], June 9 (ANI): The Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (CSIR-IHBT) and the Department of Agriculture of Himachal Pradesh government, have forged a strategic and implementation partnership, in a bid to increase the production of heeng and saffron in the country.
"This partnership is expected to provide immense benefits to Himachal Pradesh by way of increased farm income, livelihood promotion and rural development. To facilitate this development, a number of steps will be undertaken such as transfer of innovations by means of capacity building, skill development and other extension activities of prospective farmers and officers of the Department of Agriculture," the Ministry of Science and Technology said in a statement.
Saffron and heeng are the most valuable spices of the world and widely used in Indian cuisine since time immemorial. In India, the annual demand for saffron spice is 100 tons per year but its average production is about six to seven tons per year. Hence, a large amount of saffron is being imported.
"The introduction of these crops will reduce imports. CSIR-IHBT will provide technical know-how to the farmers, impart training to state agriculture department officers and farmers and set up corm and seed production centres of saffron and heeng respectively in the state," said Dr Sanjay Kumar, Director, IHBT.
At present, about 2,825 hectares of land is under cultivation of saffron in Jammu and Kashmir. IHBT has developed the production technology for saffron and introduced its cultivation in non-traditional areas of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
The institute has also developed a tissue-culture protocol for the production of disease-free corms.
The Palampur-based institute has introduced six accessions of heeng from Iran through the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), New Delhi and standardised its production protocols under Indian conditions.
"Besides providing technical support for the achievement of physical targets of the project, we will also undertake technical supervision of saffron production areas. Exposure visits to farmers will also be done. A total of 750 acres of land will be covered under these crops in the state in the next five years," Kumar added.
Dr RK Koundal, Director of Department of Agriculture, Himachal Pradesh government, said that the project will enhance the livelihood of the farmers and will benefit the state and country.
"This programme will improve the well-being of the farmers by providing better income prospects and the state will be benefited by the cultivation of these high-value crops," he said.
A state-of-the-art tissue-culture lab will be established for large-scale production of quality planting material of these crops. (ANI)