The Divisional Administration Kashmir on Monday fixed the retail price of mutton at Rs 480 per kilogram. The revised rate is a hike of Rs 40 to the last government notified rate of 2016.
The new rates were decided by the mutton price fixation committee, which revises the rates of mutton to be sold in the Valley and is headed by the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir. This committee, although expected to meet every year, met on Monday for the first time since 2016, when the rate of mutton had been fixed at Rs 440 per kg.
Addressing various stakeholders, including representatives of mutton dealers and commissioning agents, the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Pandurang K Pole, said the government notified rate of mutton at Rs 480 per kg for retail and Rs 450 per kg as the wholesale price has been fixed "after taking all aspects into consideration."
"The annual inflation rate is no more than 5% to 7% but the trade community always inflates this rate. Besides the technical team of the Sheep Husbandry department has also presented a realistic scenario of production cost of the mutton industry vis-à-vis how much the retail rate should be even after ensuring that mutton dealers get their due profit. After taking all these aspects into consideration, the new retail rate of mutton has been fixed at Rs 480 per kg," Pole said.
The Div Com also announced that the government will now do away with the practice of the mutton fixation committee meeting every year to revise rates of mutton. Pole said instead "there would be an automatic annual price revision based on the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) which is determined by the Union Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation on a regular basis."
"The rates fixed today will be applicable till December 2021 after which there would be an automatic price revision of mutton for 2022 as per the wholesale price index of that time," Pole said. "The concerned departments will ensure that the new rate list is put up on each mutton shop and there is strict implementation of the new rates. We will ensure that stringent action is taken against profiteers," Pole said. The Div Com said there was a common trend that "mutton dealers were selling at much higher prices than the government notified rates." He said, "It is the government notified rates which should set the price trends in the outside mandis and not be dictated by the mandis."
"There is almost one third or 33% self sufficiency in mutton consumption that we have achieved as of now. Of the 320 lakh kg total annual consumption, we have our own production of 120 lakh kgs while rest 200 lakh kgs is brought from outside states," Pole said. Earlier addressing the meeting, Director, Food Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs (FCSCA), Bashir Ahmad Khan said the department has lodged 43 FIRs against erring mutton dealers during the last one year. He said the government will now be stricter in issuing licenses to mutton traders. "Now onwards we will start the process of giving out licenses and will ensure that only genuine wholesalers get these licenses. As per the Mutton Rate Control Act of J&K there is no role of Commissioning Agents who claim to be an important stakeholder in the mutton industry," Khan said. The Director FCSCA said the department had sought feedback from five different Deputy Commissioners before proposing a revised rate.
Meanwhile, the wholesale mutton dealers, retailers and commission agents who were a part of the price fixation meeting later held a peaceful protest at Press Enclave to express their resentment. Addressing media perons, general secretary, All Kashmir Wholesale Mutton Dealers Association Mehrajuddin Ganai said the government notified rates for mutton was "unacceptable" to them. However, Ganai said that due to the ongoing wedding season, mutton dealers were not in a position to go for a strike.
"We were called for the price fixation meeting today and our point of view was sought. But the rates notified by the government are unacceptable to us. On one side our dependence on outside mandis is quite large and on the other hand the government does not realise that wholesale mandi prices have inflated in the last few years. Besides, the mortality rate of the animal brought to the Valley from outside mandis is quite high. So, mutton dealers are at a huge loss," Ganai said. Ganai accused the government-aided local mutton production units of their "non-seriousness" and "lack of contribution" in the mutton trade.