Srinagar, Jan 31 : Kashmir is facing acute shortage of mutton as imports of sheep and goats have considerably reduced because of protest by meat traders against alleged harassment by animal lovers in New Delhi.
To meet its mutton demand Kashmir Valley imports sheep and goats mostly from Delhi markets besides Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.
Meat traders at Bakri Mandi in New Delhi are protesting against alleged harassment by animal lovers and supporters of Maneka Gandhi, a former Union Minister, who has been campaigning for the cause of animals.
According to Kashmir mutton dealers the import of sheep and goats from Delhi has virtually stopped. The shortage has forced mutton sellers and other related traders in the Kashmir Valley to shut down their shops.
The shortage of meat has affected the Kashmiri cuisine, mutton being the main ingredient.
With higher consumption of mutton during winters in the Valley, the residents are also feeling the pinch.
"Due to extreme winters, meat is preferred the most. Meat is very important part of our diet during winters. The demand is also high but unfortunately we are facing huge shortage in the market," said Shabir Ahmed, a resident.
Before the present crisis, over 20 truckloads of sheep would arrive in the Kashmir Valley daily.
The traders at the sheep and goat markets have alleged that the trucks are stopped at the checkposts ostensibly to control overcrowding of animals in the vehicles, but the purpose is to extract money. They said that the laws in various states specify different number of animals that can be carried in each truck, which worsens their problem.
"They unnecessarily stop the trucks and keep harassing us. They extract huge amount of money from the truck drivers and we are compelled to pay the amount," said Shamas Din, a mutton importer.
According to the traders the market has suffered losses amounting to 10.5 million rupees so far.
The mutton traders have appealed to the authorities to take a stock of the situation and help them.
"We have incurred a loss of 10.5 million rupees. Delhi Mandi is almost closed. We have appealed to the Delhi Chief Minister. We have been fighting since last one and a half month, but nobody has paid heed to our problem," said Manzoor Ahmad, President, Wholesale Mutton Dealers, Jammu and Kashmir.
Meanwhile, the prices of chicken have gone up by Rs 15 to Rs 20 per kilogram.
The crisis may further intensify if the strike in Delhi does not end soon as the wholesale markets in other northern states are not in a position to meet the requirement.