Srinagar, June 2: The Jammu and Kashmir administration has annulled the J&K Mutton (Licencing and Control) order, 1973, in response to the advice of the central government, and prohibited the authorities from controlling and setting the pricing of livestock including mutton and poultry.
With no price restriction, customers would have to dig deeper into their pockets as a result of the action.
The government has immediately cancelled the Jammu and Kashmir Mutton (Licencing and Control) Order, 1973, published as SRO-646 on December 12.
An official said that it was done in response to the central government’s explanation and interdepartmental discussions on the subject.
All pertinent officials have been told to “refrain from issuing or enforcing any order” by the Directorates of Food, Civil Supplies, and Consumer Affairs, Jammu and Srinagar, which would otherwise govern the pricing.
The official said that the action was taken as a result of the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution informing the J&K government that the prior directive “was no longer valid and applicable”.
Notably, the government took up the matter with the Centre after the Agriculture Production Department sought clarification regarding the validity of notification S O 145 (E) dated February 15, 1990, under which the powers were delegated to the J&K government for regulating the commodities specified in the schedules.
“Whereas, the Agriculture Production Department, J&K government vide its communication No ASHF-PLG/54/2021-10 dated January 18, 2023, took the matter with the Department of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Government of India, seeking clarification therein regarding the validity of notification S O 145 (E) dated February 15, 1990, under which the powers were delegated to J&K government for regulating the commodities specified in the schedules annexed to the said notification,” the order reads.
Who will control the mutton and chicken pricing in J&K, which has long been a contentious matter between the mutton traders and the government, remains unclear following the notification’s issuance.
The cost of mutton has increased by more than 50 percent since 2019.
While the government-approved price is Rs 535 per kg, it was formerly marketed for Rs 400 per kg four years back and is currently being sold for Rs 650.
Commissioner Secretary, Food Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs (FCS&CA), Zubair Ahmad did not respond to the repeated calls of Greater Kashmir.
According to a senior FCS&CA officer, the notification has officially removed price controls on mutton and chicken in J&K.
He said that the supply and demand in the market would determine the prices of these items.
“The government will only have a limited role to play, similar to how it does with other products like Kashmiri apples that are exported. Before today, only licenced agents were permitted to import mutton. Now, mutton retailers are also permitted to import sheep,” the FCS&CA officer said.
J&K imports 350 lakh kg of mutton from other states, mostly Delhi and Rajasthan, and is estimated to consume over 600 lakh kg of mutton yearly.
Mutton costs per kg were lowest in Kashmir, where they were Rs 535, as opposed to Rs 600 in Uttar Pradesh, Rs 750 in Delhi, and Rs 750 in Gujarat.
Mehraj-ud-Din Ganie of All Kashmir Wholesaler Dealers Association said: “There are certain queries about the notification which we are yet to understand. We are hopeful that in the coming days, the administration will tell us who would decide the prices and other aspects.”
President of the Kashmir Valley Poultry Farmers Association, Ghulam Muhammad Bhat praised the initiative as a positive step that would help poultry farmers who were suffering as a result of a flawed pricing system that set poultry prices based on prices set in New Delhi, despite the fact that costs here are between Rs 15 and Rs 20 more than theirs.
The government’s decision to decontrol the price of mutton has infuriated customers, who claim that prices would soar as a result.
“Imagine what would happen if there were no regulations. Even when the government fixed prices, mutton sellers would sell meat at their whim. The price of mutton is increasing and no one will dare to protest as mutton is mostly used in Kashmir, whether for special occasions or daily consumption,” said Junaid Ahmad, a Srinagar resident.