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.