Ten years of hard work by the scientists in Kashmir's Agricultural University has resulted in the revival of Mushkbudji, an aromatic variety of rice grown only in the Valley.
The Jammu and Kashmir government is hand-holding the farmers to cultivate the rare variety on a large scale.
"The research of scientists led to the production of the pure line of Mushkbudji rice and the cooperation of over 400 farmers resulted in a relatively large scale production last year," an official of Jammu and Kashmir's Agro Industries Development Corporation (AIDC), which is providing marketing support to the farmers cultivating Mushkbudji, said.
He added that an area of 125 hectares was brought under cultivation of the rare variety of rice over the years and the yield last year was 900 tonnes.
The state Agriculture department provided seeds and fertilisers to the farmers for free as part of the scheme to revive the Mushkbudji variety.
To encourage the farmers to cultivate Mushkbudji, the state government felicitated some of them with certificates for the preservation of the near extinct variety.
The farmers were also given cash prizes.
The Mushkbudji revival programme was undertaken by the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST) through its Mountain Research Centre for Field Crops, at Khudwani in south Kashmir in 2007.
The main objective was to conserve the local biodiversity through utilisation for the socio-economic development of rice growers which proved to be a huge success, the official said.
He said the scientists developed the purified version of Mushkbudji after exercising the pure line selection for true to type plant architecture, grain and cooking quality.
Since Mushkbudji, the short bold aromatic rice, is grown in the higher ridges of Kashmir, the government has focused on roping in farmers from south Kashmir's Sagam Soaf Shali and Panzgam areas for its cultivation.
To re-introduce Mushkbudji to the Kashmiri kitchen and elsewhere, the AIDC organised a sale of the aromatic rice at discounted prices last month, the official said. "We received a very good response from the people and have now decided to have Mushkbudji even at places frequented by tourists like tourist reception centres, airports and hotels. "We had sales queries from other parts of the country as well, mainly from Kashmiris living outside the Valley," he added. Besides Mushkbudji, there were some other aromatic rice varieties which were grown in Kashmir a few decades ago.
But, the cultivation area of these varieties has gradually reduced because of the crops frequently getting affected due to blasts as well as low yield. After the successful revival of Mushkbudji, the state government is now planning to revive the other aromatic rice varieties such as Zag and Kamad. It is working towards reviving the traditional rice varieties of Zag and Kamad in the Valley, state Agriculture Minister Ghulam Nabi Hanjura said. He said awareness on Mushkbudji was low among the consumers and it was important that the government got involved in its marketing. The consumption of aromatic rice in Kashmir has been limited to special occasions such as marriages and festivals, but that might change in the near future.