Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Can Kashmiri Potatoes Dominate the $459 Million Chip market?

Entrepreneurs keen to launch Kashmir brand chips to serve Rs. 100 Cr market

Kashmir Produces 20,000 tons of Potatoes

Shabir Dar (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: Despite availability of indigenous raw material – potatoes – for snacks production, Jammu and Kashmir imports potato chips worth 100 crores every year. The Valley produces more than 20,000 tons of potatoes annually.

The trend of importing snacks from outside states has not encouraged industrial bodies and entrepreneurs to set up units of potato chips manufacturing units in Kashmir.

“We should have a Kashmiri brand of potato chips here, as these are in high demand here. This could be good for growers, dealers, traders and for consumers as well,” Mushtaq Ahmad, a wholesale dealer of potato chips said.

“Till now, no initiative has been taken by government or by any private entrepreneur to start potato chips unit here,’ he added.

Kashmir witnessed an impressive growth of vegetables from past three years, as per growers and agriculture authorities. Chairman of Kashmir Kissan Forum, Ghulam Mustafa Masoodi said that valley produces sufficient quantity of potatoes, both for the indigenous consumptions and for export to other states.

“We have more than 20,000 tons annual production of potatoes and during peak season, besides meeting the domestic needs we are able to export around 500 tons to outside states,” he said.

“If potato chips units come up in the valley, there is enough of indigenous raw material to feed them,” Masoodi added.

"Now, hybrid varieties have come up and those can enable production of 300-400 percent more than the average yield. There are also some breeds which can survive in snowfall, but those are yet to be introduced here,” he said.

The market size of potato chips in India, as per the latest survey is $459 million. It is one of the largest snack markets in the Asia-Pacific region. Only Australia, China, Japan and South Korea have won greater revenue from the sale of snacks. India contributes three percent to the total Asia-Pacific snack market revenue.

“Kashmir too can earn good revenue out of indigenous chips production if we are able to establish a brand, ensure its sustainability and make quality product,” said director Entrepreneurs Development Institute (EDI), Mohammad Ismail Parray.

Many entrepreneurs are approaching EDI for establishing such units in Kashmir. “But, we have to do lot of work before going directly into setting up chips production units here. We need to form clusters of growers at local level and have to ensure good quantity and quality production of potato. Then we have to put lot of labour and efforts in it, by planning productivity and marketing,” he added.

Meanwhile, president of Federation of Chambers of Industries Kashmir (FCIK) Shakeel Qalander said that initiatives are on from the industrial body’s side to establish potato chips units in the valley.

“Our endeavours are going on. We are already in line with some entrepreneurs, who want to establish such units here. FCIK is encouraging it and we have asked the entrepreneurs to go for it, even though we have to import potatoes in the beginning. We hope very soon we may have our indigenous potato chips producing units here,” he said.

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