Rate row|Mutton goes off market

Amid stalemate over rates, the mutton dealers have stopped supply and sale of meat in Kashmir.

The Jammu and Kashmir administration fixed mutton rate at Rs 480 per kilogram, when the vendors were selling it at Rs 600.

The dealers accuse the administration of adopting unreasonable approach in fixing the rates.  “The administration is not listening to our genuine pleas. We are asking them to check the prices of mutton in markets from where we import.

“In Jammu, mutton is being sold at Rs 550. How is it possible for us to sell it at Rs 480/kg when we import it from Delhi where it is being sold at Rs 600 to 700 per kg?” asked General Secretary, All Kashmir Mutton Dealers Association, Mehraj ud Din Ganai. “We have told the administration that if they supply us mutton, we will sell it at 10 percent margin only,” he said.

“The administration has started sealing our shops as a consequence of which the dealers as well the retailers have stopped import as well as sale of meat,” he said.

The stalemate over the prices has been going on for over two months now. Last month a fact-finding team— first of its kind— led by Co-chairman, Kashmir Economic Alliance, Farooq Dar with officials from food and civil supplies department, journalists, mutton dealers, etc. as its members visited various wholesale markets from where the mutton dealers import animals.  However it is yet to submit its report to the government.

“We visited almost all the mutton markets across India. On Monday we will submit our report to the administration. We have suggested that the government must take proactive role in waiving off various charges, taxes being imposed by different agencies on mutton dealers after which the rates would come down,” said Farooq Ahmad Dar.

In November, the divisional commissioner of Kashmir fixed the retail price of mutton at Rs 480 per kilogram.  Prior to that, in 2016, the rate of mutton had been fixed at Rs 440 per kilogram.

Interestingly, when the government capped the price of mutton at Rs 480 per kilogram (retail) and Rs 450 per kilogram (wholesale), most meat sellers closed their shops in the Valley leading to a massive meat shortage.

Meanwhile, the government has insisted that the annual inflation doesn’t exceed 5-7 per cent and has charged the dealers with arbitrarily increasing the prices. The government claims that the price it has fixed is realistic.

The government’s new rate 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 the time.

The authorities have also directed the departments concerned to ensure that the rate list is displayed in every mutton shop and the government fixed rates are strictly followed.

Of the 320 lakh kg annual consumption of mutton in the Valley, authorities claim the Valley produces 120 lakh kg while the rest 200 lakh kg is brought in from other states. Authorities argue that “this is enough to stabilise mutton prices in the Valley”.