SRINAGAR: Few decades back Leather industry enjoyed a prestigious position in Kashmir but with growing official apathy, less demand , global turbulence the industry is struggling to survive. Pertinently, leather footwear happens to be the largest exported product among different categories of leather exports on global level.
Footwear is a critical segment, as this is expected to be the engine of growth for the Indian leather industry too. In our part of the world, according to expert voices the valley of Kashmir leather industry has the potential to generate $ 1 billion for state economy annually. The climate on our part of the world provides one of the best environments for leather industry to flourish. Since Kashmiris are meat-eaters, statistics reveals that millions of sheep and goat are slaughtered annually for consumption thus generating large number of hides .
Worryingly due to the poor infrastructure Kashmir is not reaping full benefits of its leather potential as the virtual absence of tanneries wherein these skin hides can be processed is badly hampering the growth of Kashmir’s leather industry.
Artisans involved in making leather products in Kashmir are dismayed over non existence of proper hides (animal skin) processing unit in valley. The finished quality raw materials coming from outside prove beyond their earning capacities.
Sipping tea tensely at restaurant Bashir Ahmad, a leather businessman narrates the downfall of leather industry in Kashmir “Once leather industry was growing like anything in Kashmir but different factors have contributed to its downfall. The war in middle east especially Syria war has been main reason of suffering leather industry and also the government did virtually nothing to improve the status of leather industry in Kashmir. The hides are as a result selling on peanut prices. The huge number of animal skins generated in Kashmir on account of our high meat consumption can be better utilized for the production of quality leather, provided we have quality tanneries build here.
Unfortunately the absence of tanneries in Kashmir pushes up the production costs. We demand the government built the required infrastructure to promote this industry so that it can prove to be a fundamental industry to address our unemployment issues.”
The government in Jammu & Kashmir has number of times stated that it was determined to promote leather industry in J&K in a big way but as of date nothing much has happened in this direction.(KNB)