Srinagar: About 85
percent of Kashmiris eat non-vegetarian fare - but exactly how
much? Official statistics say Jammu and Kashmir annually consumes
a whopping 51,000 tonnes of mutton worth worth Rs.12.06 billion
(over Rs.1,200 crore), of which 21,000 tonnes is imported from
"The 21,000 tonnes is in addition to 30,000 tonnes of mutton
produced locally and costing Rs.7.02 billion (Rs.702 crore) which
also goes into the local consumption each year," a senior official
of the animal husbandry department here told IANS.
Despite having some of the best meadows and pastures in the world,
all the mutton imported into Kashmir comes from Rajasthan, which
has some of the most arid deserts in the country.
In addition to mutton, poultry and poultry products are also
imported into the state from neighbouring Punjab and Haryana.
"Chicks, broilers, layers and eggs amounting to Rs.1.2 billion are
imported each year for local consumption," said another official
of the state animal husbandry department posted with the poultry
"This is in addition to the local poultry production worth Rs.1.8
billion that also goes into local consumption."
The officials say 84 percent of the state's 10 million population
is predominantly non-vegetarian.
Some say the high consumption of meats could explain the wide
prevalence of certain ailments.
"My god, these are Herculean figures and they explain the reason
for high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol levels, heart
ailments, gout, kidney stones, liver ailments and a host of other
diseases the locals are vulnerable to because of their dietary
habits," said Kaisar Ahmad, a general practitioner here.
The sheer amount of mutton and poultry that goes into the
preparation of the traditional Kashmiri cuisine called 'wazwan' is
"An average middle class marriage requires about five quintals of
mutton and one quintal of poultry. Those who haven't seen the
extended wazwan feasts where courses over courses of dishes are
served in an unending pageant are really flabbergasted by the
extravaganza when they experience it the first time," said Sujeet
Kumar, a police officer belonging to Haryana told IANS.
"It is common in the Valley for people to ask if anyone in the
family had taken ill, if they find a local carrying vegetables or
fruit home!" said Bashir Ahmad War, a retired veterinarian here.
Fortunately, with growing healthcare awareness, especially among
youth, the dietary habits of locals are gradually changing for the
"It was very unusual to see a Kashmiri jogging or attending a
health club earlier. In the past, locals would do something like
this only under medical advice," said War.
"Now more and more locals are doing daily exercises, attending
health clubs and are seen doing brisk walking in the mornings.
This is accompanied by a change in eating habits as vegetables and
fruits are now getting into our menu.
"But there is still a long way to go before mutton and poultry are
used in moderation," said War.
(Sheikh Qayoom can be
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)