SRINAGAR: Even though the recently concluded Eid ul Adha celebrations, with their ritual of animal sacrifice, should extend happiness to raw hide and skin dealers in Kashmir by bringing them thousands of quality animal skin, the sentiment with these traders is at an all-time low with prices of hides this year plummeting significantly.
Sehyar, the Old City quarter in Nawakadal, usually saw traders and workers happy curing hides from sacrificial animals. This year, they say they are grappling with a serious crisis with not only prices sliding, but a low demand from Indian traders piling up the product with them.
Arshid Hussain Kawa, whose family has long been in this trade, said that over the years there has been a significant decline in trade activity, with the whole raw hide and leather sector in distress.
“We have never witnessed such a decline in prices,” he said, adding that the decline is almost 300 percent since 2013.
Kawa said that a quality raw hide used to fetch Rs 420 in 2013, while today the price it commands barely touches Rs 150.
Adding to the crisis is the piling-up of stock with tanneries in India that now show no interest in purchasing additional stock.
Kawa feels that the maximum dent to the sector was the closure of the tanneries in Kanpur in UP, Punjab and other parts, apart from a decrease in international orders after the growing vigilantism against animal slaughter across India.
“Some factories also capable of processing leather here are worried after they find no buyers for their stock,” he said, adding that even though the ban on cow slaughter hits the industry at the leather source, the option of importing this product has been kept open, further reducing the demand for the local variety.
A dealer who requested anonymity said that the lowering of prices has directly impacted their margins, thus causing the turnover to dwindle further.
He blamed the government for the down-fall of the whole leather sector in India.
“We are at the bottom of this sector, supplying most of our raw hides to Indian tanneries that process them to make leather,” he said. The growing cow vigilantism across India has also created fear among leather exporters, he continued, forcing the sector to shrink drastically in India and hitting the price of the basic product in local markets even more.
He said that the sector’s survival is tough, particularly when the central government is not keen to boost it since it is mostly dominated by Muslims and Dalits across India. “The state government too has become hostile, with it not only imposing GST on us but levying the toll on export at Lakhanpur.
“It is an irony that former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayed was keen on developing the leather sector in the Valley, given the availability of its raw material. But the present government has not only imposed GST on the product, but is still levying toll on raw hides,” he said.
Kawa also said a significant loss is made by philanthropic institutes and drasgahs, which now get very little income from the collection they make.
He said that a prominent institute in Srinagar this time generated Rs 4,00,000 from the auction of qurbani hides that in past went above Rs 12 lakh.