“In view of huge mutton usage in Jammu and Kashmir, especially in the Kashmiri cuisine and in order to reduce meat import, the government has approved an ambitious Rs 329 crore project for next five years to achieve self reliance in mutton sector”, Additional Chief Secretary, Agriculture Production Department (APD), Atal Dulloo said.
The initiative also envisages achieving self-reliance in the mutton sector through a combination of innovative interventions including vertical upgrades, horizontal expansion besides focused attention on health cover and nutrition, he said.
Despite the region’s competitive advantage and potential to become self-reliant in the mutton sector, there is a shortfall of 41 per cent leading to an import bill of Rs 1400 crore every year, officials said.
“Investing in growth and improvement of the mutton sector in J&K is not only about boosting production and reducing import costs, but it is also about providing quality and safe meat to consumers, improving the livelihoods of traditional farmers besides creating new job opportunities in the region”, Dulloo said.
One of the major interventions planned is import of muttonous breeds, which will lead to establishment of 72 breed-based farms to provide high genetic merit to animals. The project aims to conduct 1,00,000 Artificial Inseminations annually and establish 400 new commercial farms every year.
The project also focuses on clusterization, creation of mandis, abattoirs and common facility centers (CFCs), to support marketing and value addition of the sector, he said. The existing mutton production is not only of insufficient quantity but also lacks quality and is not FSSAI compliant, putting consumers at risk.
The majority of the livestock population is held by Bakerwals who follow traditional methods of farming, resulting in low productivity and profits.
The UT has less than five breeds of sheep with the majority being dual purpose breeds such as Kashmir Merino, Rambouillet, and Corriedale. However, there is increasing demand for fast-growing mutton breeds like Dorper, Romnov, South Down and others, they said.
The expected output from the project include import of 2700 high genetic merit and elite sheep and goats, increased lambing percentage from 80 to 120 and considerable reduction in marketable age for sheep and goats (40-50 kg in 6 months), they officials said.
The project aims to double the farm income through early weight gain, improved carcass yield and production and reduce lamb mortality. Effective health cover is expected to prevent production losses by 20-30 percent and provide consumers with safe and quality meat, they said.
“The project is anticipated to bring significant benefits to farmers and consumers in Jammu and Kashmir. The creation of commercial farms and establishment of breed-based farms will boost mutton production and improve the quality of meat available to consumers”, Dulloo said.
The marketing and value addition initiatives will help farmers get better returns for their produce, while health cover and nutrition interventions will reduce production losses and improve the overall well-being of the animals.
The project will also create job opportunities and promote entrepreneurship, contributing to the economic development of the region, they said.