The bat manufacturing units in Punjab, after failing to meet the ever increasing demand of the market and their export commitments overseas, are likely to pursue the matter of official ban on Kashmir willow cleft with the newly formed Jammu and Kashmir government.
According to the sports manufacturing industry experts, the bat industry in Punjab, which is struggling to meet the rising demand of the cricket bats, will die a natural death if it continues to procure smuggled willow clefts, which are five times higher than the original price, therefore, taking heavy toll on the margins.
Arvind Abrol, chairman, Sports Manufacturers and Exporters Association, which has a share of nearly 90 per cent of the export from the country and has more than 50 per cent home market as well, said, "After sensing a gradual shutdown of the bats manufacturing units, which are struggling to meet the increasing demand of the market, we are left with no option but to propose the Jammu and Kashmir government to lift the ban on the Kashmir willow cleft which is causing some serious damages to the bats manufacturing units in Punjab."
"If all goes well and government considers the decision of lifting the ban off the willow cleft, it would be termed as complete revival of the bat manufacturing industry in Punjab."
Raghunath Rana of Ranson Sports Industry said, "After a partial ban on the Kashmir willow in 1999, the J-K government, after sensing danger to its own bat manufacturing units and employment and revenue generation through it, resorted to a complete ban in 2005 but the move had wider repercussions on the sports industry in other states."
"To save the dying bat manufacturing industry in Punjab, we have to pursue the matter stringently with the Jammu and Kashmir government. Lifting of the ban on the willow will entail equal opportunity to all the stakeholders on one hand and on the other it would certainly discourage smuggling."
It is pertinent to mention here that after the willow cleft was completely banned by the J-K government, it drew negative remarks from the industry experts from all across the region, following which the government proposed other states to set up their own manufacturing units in Kashmir which did not go down well with the latter considering the additional expenses and risk it involved.
The best quality bats made from Kashmir willow cost around Rs 8,000 but the bats made from English willow do not come at an affordable price, so all the beginners or amateurs cannot possibly afford a bat worth Rs 50,000.
"In a bid to monopolise the bat manufacturing industry in the region, revenue and employment generation for its own citizens, the JK government has only played a breeding ground for the smuggling cartels which despite ban routed more than 20 lakh of Kashmir willow clefts to the bat manufacturing units established in Punjab and Meerut every year. The willow cleft smuggling cartel is being run in connivance with few government officials,"said a Jalandhar-based exporter, seeking anonymity.