Sales of the famed cricket bats made from Kashmiri willow have gone down with three back to back lockdowns over the last three years in Kashmir now overlapping with a global lockdown owing to COVID-19 pandemic in the rest of the world since the past more than a year.
Dozens of manufacturers of the willow bats concentrated in south Kashmir’s highway town of Sangam in Anantnag district’s Bijbehara, forty kilometers from Srinagar, are dismayed; many have scaled down operations. “We would usually receive orders for several thousand bats, but now we don’t even receive an order for a hundred bats,” said Fayaz Ahmad, a 42-year-old owner of a bat manufacturing unit.
Mukhtar Ahmad Dar, additional secretary of an association of bat manufacturers, said that even as sales remained slow in the initial months of every year as youth across the country remained busy with various examinations.
Sales usually increase every summer as the coveted Indian Premier League (IPL) is scheduled to be held. “Dealers from across the country were placing advance orders, due to the lockdown the market scenario changed,” he said.
Mohammad Amin Dar, vice-president of the association, said each manufacturing unit was producing more than 15,000 bats annually but “are now producing only a few thousand bats.” Not only has the COVID-19 lockdown hit demand but has also scuttled potential benefits from the area from Awantipora to Sangam being declared an industrial area.
Adding to the industry’s worries is the non-operationalisation of a wood seasoning unit setup by the government. Gulam Qadir Bhat, president of the cricket bat manufacturing association, said that the J-K administration had failed to provide even basic facilities, the electricity supply has been erratic from the past two years. “The authorities are snapping off the supply as per their will,” he said.