SRINAGAR: Encouraged by UAE’s response to Kashmir arts and business, Lieutenant Governor administration has reached out to government and business leaders in Saudi Arabia and Qatar to boost exports.
Top government honchos are in touch with officials and industrialists of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to crack a deal. The government is looking for a market for handicrafts, floriculture, and other sectors. The government is also trying to lure tourists from the two countries to increase foreign footfalls.
Sources said very soon a trade and business delegation from these two countries could visit Kashmir and meet officials and local businessmen.
Sources said the government officials are trying to rope in different retail and supermarket chains so that Kashmir products could reach international customers without any hitch.
There is a huge market for Kashmir hand-woven shawls in Saudi Arabia. It could be gauged by the fact that last year Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was spotted wearing Kashmiri Shahtoosh Shawl while chairing a meeting of the Public Investment Fund.
“Fashion lovers surfed for the traditional headwear or shemagh worn by the crown prince, with one account tweeting that it was a Kashmiri Shahtoosh shawl that costs $746 (2,800 SAR),” Arab News had reported.
Likewise, Kashmir silken carpets, cut flowers, and fruits too have a tremendous market in Saudi Arabia.
“We are seriously pursuing with the government that they should start Srinagar-Jeddah flight. Cargo has been started and we can explore the international market. Once there is connectivity, it gives room for exploring markets. Our perishable items will be in the international market in just six hours. For instance, fruits, cut flowers, and others will reach international stores same day,” Sheikh Ashiq, president, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI).
The export sector suffered a serious setback in the last few years. Last year, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries said handicraft products worth Rs 600 crore were lying unsold in the valley. The downslide started after 2016 when the valley witnessed one of the biggest lockdowns after the killing of Burhan Wani.
In 2016-17, handicrafts including carpet, shawl, paper machie, crewel, wood carving and worth Rs 1151.12 crore were exported from Jammu and Kashmir. The exports dropped in 2017-18 when handicrafts valuing Rs 1090.12 crore were exported from Jammu and Kashmir followed by Rs 917.93 crore in 2018-19.
However, Gulf Investment Summit has rekindled new hope among Kashmir Inc. “We had a one on one meeting with the delegates. We want a mutual business relationship with all people. We want the world market to be opened for people of J&K. The meeting point starts a business. We believe young entrepreneurs and start-ups have a whole new world in front of them,” he said
Ashiq said the delegation has promised to set up Kashmir Business Center in Dubai. “It will be our window to the world. It will connect our businessmen to the world. The sky is the limit,” he said.
On Tuesday, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha said the proposed Rs 70,000 crore investment will create around 6-7 lakh job opportunities in Jammu and Kashmir. “We have also signed Rs 3,000 crore worth MoUs in Dubai when we visited there early this year,” he added.