Peshawar — Khyber Agency Agriculture department mull over to replaced opium and hashish cultivation with Saffron in war-torn Tirah Valley, a most expensive spice in the world and allocate Rs. 3 million for obtaining 180KG Saffron seeds in PC-1.
Tirah Valley is located in Khyber, Kurram and Orakzai agencies of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, a main town of the volatile Khyber tribal area in northern Pakistan has more than 30000 Acre cultivatable land mostly depended on rainwater.
An officer in the agriculture department, Khyber Agency, Faiq Iqbal told Tribal Post, “In order to prevent cultivation of opium and other drugs and give another better option of farming to local farmers, agriculture department has started training local farmers to cultivate Saffron, a high-value crop,” .
“One kilogram of Saffron can make $2,000 to $3,000 in the local market,” he said.
“Saffron (Zafran) also known as “CROCUS SATIVUS”; used in cosmetics, perfume, beverage, various dishes, and also medicine etc,” Mr. Iqbal informed, adding that Saffron is produced in Afghanistan, Iran and some European countries while Chitral and Northern areas of Pakistan are also producing a very limited scale in the country.
“For first phase-(2016-2017), PC-1 was prepared under which Rs. 3 million approved for obtaining 180KG Saffron (Seeds) for one kanal land. So, Saffron seeds were imported from neighboring Afghanistan”, said Iqbal.
In September 2016, the agriculture department had cultivated Saffron in over 5-kanal land in Malik Din Khel of Qamber Khel village and Adam Khel area of Tirah valley on experimental basis that gave very good results.
Faiq Iqbal explained why Tirah was one of the best places for Saffron cultivation as it required high mountains, cold weather, no standing water, and fairly sandy land. “Fortunately all these conditions exist in Tirah Valley,” he told.
Local farmers in Khyber Agency are very hopeful after the decision by government. They believe that it will empower them enough and they would be able to produce enough quantity of Saffron.
A local farmer of Tirah valley Muhammad Shahid told Tribal Post “I cultivated Saffron with cooperation of Agriculture department of Khyber Agency, and I am happy to see it grown well.”
Gull Muhammad Afridi, who is a farmer too in Tirah Valley said, “I have cultivated Saffron. Farmers have no information how to take care of Saffron that is why I work and follow the instructions of Agriculture department, Khyber Agency.”
He said, “It will be better for us if government arranged trainings for the farmer and teach them how to cultivate Saffron in better way, because we are not too much familiar with this crop.”
FATA Farmer Association, President, Sayed Karam Shah Afridi also stressed on the cultivation of Saffron and demanded of the government to train the farmers.
The local farmers were earning handsome earning by Hashish & Opium cultivation, however, Saffron is also a precious crop and so through this way the government wants to convince the local farmers to cultivate more Saffron.
According to Agriculture Department Khyber Agency, there are double advantages of Saffron cultivation, one to get rid of Stigma and secondly its seed become double in a season. The department will cultivate Saffron in more five-kanal land in coming September for which the seeds will be purchased from the local farmers.
Government and NGOs’ officials made visits and after seeing the successful production of Saffron, they are now ready to arranged training in other parts of the country. Adding that for the success of this crop, Faiq Iqbal told Tribal Post, “We need more time, and if we are succeeded, we will be able to control the production of drugs-corp like Hashish and Opium.”
“For agriculture in Tirah Valley, there is a need of modern agriculture machineries, because in this modern age, locals are following traditions ways of cultivation,” said Janat Gull, head of Farmer Association in Khyber Agency.
Tirah valley was a hub of the Hashish and Cannabis production that was smuggled to different parts of the country until 2016.