Mutton forms an important and inalienable part of diet chart in Kashmir Valley. Recognizably, the free availability of the mutton in the market for almost four months now is a significant issue. Ever since the administration fixed the retail price of mutton at Rs 480 per kilogram in November last year, there is a deadlock with dealers demanding a review even as the price is Rs 40 higher than the previously fixed rate in 2016. However it’s about Rs 120 less than what the dealers were selling the highly sought after commodity in Kashmir with a consumption of around 1,000 lakh kg/year.
The problem of fixing the rates has dragged and the failure of both the sides, dealers and the government, in reaching an agreement is baffling.
The government’s new rate is technically applicable till the end of this year, December 2021. Thereafter, there would be an automatic price revision of rates as per the wholesale price index of the time.
The mutton dealers were selling it around Rs 500 but with the advent of covid-19 and shutdown forced by it, the prices went up and the dealers would sell it at Rs 550 and then at Rs 600. A forum claiming to be representing the dealers says that Rs 600/kg is rational given the rates outside the J&K.
A ‘fact-finding committee’ formed by the dealers to examine the mutton rates across India has lent support to the claims by the dealers, saying that retail dealers in Kashmir procure “grade-A” quality at Rs 518 per kilogram. The administration has so far stuck to the rates and considers the dealers as violators. The government has warned them against overcharging and even announced to go tough against them, already evident from seizure of vehicles carrying livestock recently.
The consumers are certainly caught in the tussle of sorts and most people have no way to enforce what has been fixed even as they want mutton prices far lesser than what they are made to pay. There is no doubt that people would in all situations want the prices to come down given the fact that the lesser the prices better the deal. The government while fixing the price stated that representatives of the dealers were consulted. Besides, the technical team of the Sheep Husbandry department presented a “realistic scenario” of the production cost of the mutton industry as regards how much the retail rate should be even after ensuring the dealers get their due profit. After taking all these aspects into consideration, the new retail rate of mutton was fixed, the government maintains. With four months into new rates fixed by the administration, the commodity has become rare and beyond reach. It has vanished from the markets. Both sides need to work out the issues and ensure that the commodity is available to the people. Importantly also, the dealers have lost their livelihood at a time when the pandemic has already inflicted huge losses to business. Some poor dealers are worst hit. The administration need to speed up the negotiations and fix a price acceptable to all the parties and end the deadlock.