Srinagar, Dec 31: A decade long association with tourism business has yielded 33-year-old Muneer Ahmad of Baramulla less than what he had expected in 2010 when he took a loan to invest in this trade.
While initial years proved lucrative when tourists rush started breaking records, the 2014 floods, 2016 unrest and now 2019 uncertainty badly affected his business. With little saving, Ahmad is now exploring alternate avenues to create shock-absorbers for his business.
“Since I reside in a place where apple orchards are in abundance, horticulture can be the best option for me. I have now decided to buy some orchards in 2020 to create alternate business model,” he said.
Not just Ahmad, many like him are switching from conventional trade to newer fields in order to create a financial stability.
Sensing changing business dynamics, Kashmir Inc. too have jumped on to the bandwagon to make the valley a producing superpower from consuming region.
Leading the charge is The Kashmir Chamber of Industries and Commerce (KCCI) which has identified at least a dozen sectors in which people would invest in 2020.
“Prominent among these sectors include poultry, sheep farming, dairy, agriculture and horticulture, and others. We want to invest in these sectors to reduce dependency on other states,” said KCCI president Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad.
Kashmir, which produces 110 lakh kilograms of mutton annually, imports 310 lakh kilograms from other states.
Similarly, around two lakh metric tonnes of vegetables are imported from states including UP and Punjab.
The KCCI president said initially businessmen would invest around Rs 100 crore in 2020.
“Many businessmen have agreed to invest in these sectors. To implement the idea we held a meeting with Secretary, Sheep and Animal Husbandry, Asgar Samoon. He too assured us his full support,” Ahmad said.
The KCCI president said the chamber would hold a mega event in February to invite aspiring entrepreneurs to invest in these high growth sectors.
“It is KCCI’s resolution for 2020. We want new businessmen to explore these options. We are sure that if this business model is adopted, Kashmir will be self-reliant in next five years,” Ahmad said.
With a similar mindset of empowering the valley farmers, Department of Agriculture too is embarking on a mission to popularize cultivation of exotic vegetables and crops in in Kashmir in 2020.
The department has consulted framers to convince them for growing non-traditional crops including broccoli, lettuce, snow peas, parsley and sweet corn.
“The idea behind this programme is to ensure massive expansion of vegetable varieties in Kashmir. We expect to grow exotic crops on at least 500 hectares of land in coming season. Vegetables like broccoli, lettuce will introduce our farmers to international market. Besides, it will multiply their earnings,” said Altaf Aijaz Andrabi, director, Agriculture department, Kashmir.
Post abrogation of article 370, Kashmir businessmen suffered over Rs 17800 crore loss while almost five lakh youth lost their jobs in the first 120 days of uncertainty.
‘Preliminary Economic Loss Assessment Report’ by Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI) released earlier this month shows that Kashmir was losing over Rs 119 crore each day in 11 major sectors the valley’s fragile economy roots into.
Tourism, as per the report, took the biggest cumulative hit of Rs 9191 crore during the period. The sector also witnessed a whopping 1, 40,500 job losses.
Moreover, the current situation is throwing major challenges to the businessmen. More than 40 per cent of traders have missed the deadline for filing Goods and Services Tax (GST) returns in the valley.
Since July, business community has not been able to file GST returns as government blocked mobile and broadband internet services post abrogation of Article 370 on August 5.