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Lockdown blues: J&K witnessed 26% negative growth in export sector last year

Srinagar: Exports from Jammu and Kashmir have dropped by 26 percent due to the lockdown last year.

Figures released by the Union Ministry of Commerce reveal that goods worth 97.05 million US dollars (USD) were exported from Jammu and Kashmir from April to November last year. It is 34 US million dollars less than 2019 when goods valuing 131.76 USD were exported during the same period

Data reveals that the exports from Jammu and Kashmir last year constituted only 0.6 percent of the overall exports from India.

From vegetables to fruits to hand-made goods, hundreds of products are being exported from Kashmir that brings sufficient foreign exchange into the country.

However, for the last two years, the export sector is witnessing a slump due to two back-to-back lockdowns.

In 2019, the export from April to November fell by more than five percent compared to 2018 when exports from Jammu and Kashmir were 196.43 USD.  Data suggests that the exports of handicrafts, one of the main products, declined by 62 percent in the second quarter of 2019 as compared to the first quarter.

In the first quarter, handicrafts worth Rs 298.28 crore were exported, which included carpets worth Rs 122.65 crore. The following quarter, when internet services were suspended, the overall exports plunged to Rs 187.47 crore of which carpets amounted to Rs 76.26 crore.

2018 has recorded the highest export in the last five years, which constituted 0.6 percent of India’s total exports that year.

In 2017, a year after Kashmir witnessed a six-month-long agitation following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen chief Burhan Wani, Jammu and Kashmir’s export during the April-November period touched Rs 148.31 USD.

As per the figures, the value of India’s overall exports (merchandise and services) during April- November 2020 was US$ 304.53 billion as compared to US$ 351.83 billion during April- November 2019, showing negative growth of 13.45%.

Moreover, the Centre has provided Rs 245.35 crore during the last three years under Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES) for projects located in various States to promote export business.

Former president of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and industries Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad said the exports have been witnessing a decline in Jammu and Kashmir post-2016.

He said so far 50 -60 percent of the exports have declined thereby affecting more than three lakh people in the Kashmir region.

“Government needs to take measures and make Jammu and Kashmir an export hub. We have already given suggestions to the government on how to promote exports. The government seriously needs to think about creating market linkage, exploring potential markets, and incentivize the trade,” Ahmad said.

An official said that the government has taken various steps to promote business and attract investors to Jammu and Kashmir.

“The government already announced Rs 28,400 crore industrial development package and moreover business avenues are being created by attracting investors worldwide to set up units in Kashmir,” he said.