Srinagar: Markets in Kashmir are waiting with bated breath for supplies to resume after the Srinagar-Jammu highway re-opened for traffic on Tuesday after almost eight days of continuous closure. An acute shortage of food supplies in Kashmir has been caused by the highway closure, especially of fresh vegetables, mutton, poultry and fruits.
According to locals, most vegetables are still not available even in wholesale markets and the ones that are available, like potatoes, onions, turnips and carrots, are selling at high rates.
“Fresh vegetables are not in sight anywhere. Some shopkeepers are selling decayed vegetables at exorbitant rates,” said Suhail Ahmad, a resident of Bagh-e-Mahtab area on Srinagar outskirts.
He said that poultry products are also out of stock in the city markets. “There is black marketing going on. Traders and vendors are indulging in hoarding to earn extra bucks,” he said.
Ghulam Hassan, a resident of Solina area, said he couldn’t find chicken and mutton anywhere in nearby markets. “After searching for many days I located a few shops in the interiors of downtown that were selling chicken. But they were selling it at Rs 180 to Rs 200 per kilogram,” he said.
Mutton is being sold at Rs 600 per kg in most places in Srinagar and other parts of the valley, reports say.
The government’s Legal Metrology department booked 15 traders for violating laws on Wednesday during market inspections in the city.
“The defaulters included sellers of vegetables, poultry, fruit, Kiryana shop owners, and petrol pumps. The offenders were penalised on the spot and an amount of Rs 60,100 was collected as penalty,” said a representative of the department.
According to mutton dealers, the closure of the highway has led to huge losses. “Most of our trucks are stranded on the highway for the past one week. We are now receiving dead livestock,” said Mehraj-ud-Din Ganai, general secretary of the All-Kashmir Wholesale Mutton Dealers Association.
He said that mutton traders have suffered losses to the tune of Rs 12 crore to Rs 14 crore in the past 40 days due to frequent closure of the highway.
“In every truck, 15 to 20 animals die due to delay in transportation. It means a loss of nearly Rs 2 lakh per truck,” Ganai said.
He blamed the government for not providing any infrastructural or monetary support to mutton traders. “We neither receive any insurance scheme from the government nor any compensation for our dead livestock and other losses. The government has also failed to construct shelters for animals in case of emergency situations arising out of road blockade,” Ganai said.
Fruit and vegetable dealers also expressed helplessness and said that some vendors were indulging in black marketing.
“Supply is short but higher rates are also due to hoarding by vendors. There is little check by the government,” said Shahid Chowdhary, joint secretary of New Kashmir Fruit Association Parimpora.
He said the government should keep a check on markets and limit the profit margin to 6 percent.
“If there is no strict check on the prices charged by small vendors, prices will shoot up,” Chowdhary said.
Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, president of the Kashmir Valley Poultry Farmers’ Association, said that poultry farming has been affected in Kashmir as the highway closure has halted supply of raw material and chicks.
“We only received 30 percent of chicks this season from regions outside. This has badly affected our farming and led to serious shortage of chicken in the market,” he said.
Director of the Department of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, Mohammad Qasim Wani, admitted that supply has been severely affected due to the closure of the highway. However, he said, the partial re-opening of the road on Tuesday has made the situation a little better, as many trucks carrying essential items have reached Srinagar.
“We are keeping close watch on the market so that there is no hoarding and illegal sale,” he said.