SRINAGAR: The looming fear of Covid-19 has made habitual mutton eaters give up on the pleasure, a behavioural change resisted by Kashmiris even in the most troubled times in the past.
According to Mehraj-ud-Din, general secretary of All Kashmir Wholesale Mutton Dealers Association, the supply of mutton to markets has been zero since the Covid lockdown was imposed two weeks ago.
“We have zero stock. Nothing is coming from outside, and the local markets that supply mutton are shut. People also seem to have no desire to buy it. We are not even getting orders from retailers as we used to do during past lockdowns,” Mehraj said.
Last year, mutton was available in the market and people were buying it, too, even though Kashmir was under months of lockdown after the Government of India abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. During the 2016 uprising, too, the demand for mutton did not decline much despite the shortage of meat in markets due to restricted supply.
Muhammad Yousif Bhat, a 75-year-old from Rainawari area in downtown Srinagar, said he has restricted himself to home since the lockdown. He said he was a habitual mutton eater but this time he has chosen not to buy it due to the threat of coronavirus.
“My family is a regular eater of mutton. I think this is for the first time in my life that we are not buying mutton. We can have enough of it later when we are past this pandemic,” he said.
Bhat lives near a locality, Hasi Bhat, which is called Puj mohallah in local parlance. In Rainawari, this locality is the hub of mutton sellers. It has some 50 mutton dealers who supply mutton across the valley. These days, it wears a deserted look.
Mohd Ashraf, a retailer in the area, said that they have not supplied any mutton since the Covid-19 lockdown. According to him, there is almost no demand from the public.
“I rarely get any order from my regular customers. This is something I have seen for the first time in my life,” he added.
Mushtaq Ahmad, one of the numerous mutton lovers in Kashmir, said he had approached Ashraf but could not get anything. He said he went to almost all mutton suppliers in Srinagar, but they had nothing to sell.
The almost vanishing of demand has made suppliers not to look for alternative sources of mutton. Mehraj said he gave up looking up for mutton when one kg was sold to him at Rs 700, almost Rs 200 more than the usual price. He contacted the government’s sheep department for gauging whether they could fill the gap, but he was turned down and told to get permission from the administration.
Kashmir’s own sheep production can supply mutton for sometime in case the demand goes up and the lockdown measures are eased. According to government data, indigenous mutton production in JK has shot up to 323.57 lakh kilograms.