“Our produce used to be 15 to 20 kilograms every year. This year we expect just 1.5 to 2 kg,” Mr Wani said.
Farmers harvest three batches of saffron flowers in one season, but this year even as the harvest season draws to a close, most are still waiting to pick the first batch of flowers.
The Kashmir weather department said the situation is alarming.
“There has been extremely less rainfall this year, just 3 millimetres in September and no rainfall in October, very little rainfall in August. Due to low rainfall in the peak growth period of crops, there is reduction of yield,” said Mukhtar Ahmad, Deputy Director, Kashmir weather office.
There is also no irrigation system for over 3,000 hectares of land under saffron cultivation at Pampore. Farmers depend on a few borewells installed by the government, which remain mostly locked. Farmers said they may be forced to abandon saffron farming and turn to high-density fruit cultivation.
“People want to switch over to apple or walnut cultivation. We spent Rs 20,000 for saffron cultivation and got just Rs 1,000 in return. What’s the point?” said Ghulam Ahmad, another saffron farmer.