Post 2016 unrest, business slump continues in Kashmir

Amid slack tourism season, expectations of revival now on bumper apple harvest

SAQIB MALIK
Srinagar, Publish Date: Sep 22 2017 11:56PM | Updated Date: Sep 22 2017 11:56PM
Post 2016 unrest, business slump continues in KashmirFile Photo

Prevailing uncertain situation coupled with cascading shift in economic policy – such as demonitisation and implementation of GST – at the central government level has robbed Kashmir of yet another peak business season.

While expressing concern over a continuing slump in business, Kashmir-based industry and trade leaders are now pinning all their hopes on a bumper apple harvest this year, which they believe will provide some succor to the state economy if the market for this cash crop remains good. Kashmir exports apples and other fruits worth Rs 5,000 crore every year.

Javed Ahmad Tenga, president, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry told Greater Kashmir that a slack tourist season, mostly due to negative media publicity of Kashmir, has spiraled into the handicraft industry as well.

“Tourism industry in Kashmir has been literally on the death bed for last two years while handicraft trade has also not been spared by the downturn. We are now making efforts for revival of handicrafts by ensuring participation in buyer-seller meets on domestic and global level.  We are encouraging exporters to take part in prestigious trade fairs in Germany, Birmingham etc,” Tenga said, adding the handicraft exports from Kashmir are on downside. 

Tenga said an abysmal horticulture harvest last year has also proven to be detrimental for Kashmir’s economy but expressed optimism for this year’s horticulture exports.  

“There is positive indication coming from the horticulture side that we will have a bumper apple harvest this year. Damage done to Kashmir’s economy due to a major decrease in tourist footfalls could be overcome to some extent, if there is a good market for the apple produce,” Tenga said.  

Tourist footfall to Kashmir has been dismal to an extent that tourism players have not been even able to manage their daily expenses this year, said Farooq Kuthoo, secretary general, Travel Agents Associations of Kashmir. “We have employees’ salaries and rents to pay and with a disappointing tourist season we have to bear the brunt. There have been several job cuts associated with both tourism trade and general businesses as well. Huge population of our Valley is dependent directly or indirectly with tourism and now they are struggling to make ends meet,” Kuthoo said.  

Chairman, Kashmir Economic Alliance, Muhammad Yaseen Khan said general trade in Kashmir has witnessed a nosedive by 70 percent in last two months especially since implementation of GST. Khan said surprisingly business didn’t even pick up on Eid recently, which otherwise is considered a good occasion for the sales of consumables and durables in Kashmir. 

“Even as winter season for business is approaching fast we don’t have much of an expectation in terms of customer footfall. There is lack of disposable income among people as large sums of pending dues are lying with the government. The restrictions and curfews last year broke the back of traders of which the cascading effect is being witnessed even now,” Khan said.  

Kashmir economy faced worst phase last year summer as majority of the business activities were halted post killing of Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani in on July 8. Widespread protests and about 100 civilian killings followed by curfews and strike calls threw economic activities completely out of gear for more than five months. Farhan Kitab, media head, Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation said lack of financial assistance for revival of flood and unrest-hit businesses from the state government is also a reason for the ongoing slump in trade.   

“Traders are burdened to an extent that they are unable to repay loans to financial institutions. Loan restructuring was a welcome step but traders are now unable to pay EMIs for loans as the market didn’t pick up after the unrest which has also lead to a lot of NPAs for banks,” Kitab said.  

President of Kashmir Apple Growers and Dealers Association, Muhammad Yusuf Dar said this year Kashmir has a bumper apple crop and prices fetched in outside are also on higher side, as compared to year. “Prices of Apples are between Rs 800 – Rs 1000 for delicious variety which was Rs 700 last year. The market is showing promising signs and we hope a bumper apple season will bring back cheer to the growers,” Dar said.