Drought and climate change threaten the existence of the world’s finest saffron

Photo by Mohammad Amiri from Unsplash

Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice. It’s worth around $2,000 per pound and is traditionally used in medicines and perfumes. But to the 19,000 families in Pampore, India, saffron farming has been their source of livelihood throughout generations. 

Popularly known as “saffron town,” Pampore is where the world’s best saffron grows. It sits 10 miles southeast of Srinagar, Kashmir’s capital city. Kashmir’s terrain, soil quality, and weather all play an important role in the production of saffron. Farmers have experienced harvesting three rounds of saffron crocus flowers from the same bulb in a single season which usually lasts less than a month or so. 

But for the past 10 years, farmers have lamented that the declining rainfall and a lack of adequate irrigation facilities have significantly decreased the yield and consistency of the world’s finest saffron. As a way to cope with this decline, some farmers have already switched to farming high-density crops like apples, walnuts, or garlic. Others have been selling their land due to its high value and the growing demand for urbanization in Pampore.

Even though the government has pledged to build irrigation systems for the saffron fields,  development has been slow. It’s now a matter of who will take the actual first step to save the saffron fields: the government or the people around the world who will start working together to mitigate climate change and preserve the planet’s biodiversity. 

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