Beef, often a source of controversy, but many a Malayalee's delight that transcends political and religious differences in Kerala is now in the news following a District Panchayat's attempt to cap its price.
The Kottayam panchayat wants the price of beef, savoured by many in the state, to be fixed at Rs 320 per kg, but the meat industry is seeing red over the move.
The development, which is expected to bring considerable cheer and probably visions of various beef delicacies to the red meat lovers of Kottayam, comes in the wake of Manjoor grama panchayat of the district fixing the price of beef at Rs 340.
Taking a cue from the decision of the grama panchayat and several representations from the public to reduce the skyrocketing beef price, which had reached close to Rs 400 and make it affordable, the District Panchayat resolved to fix a common price for it in Kottayam.
According to Nirmala Jimmy, the District Panchayat President, the decision has been communicated to all the grama panchayats, local self government institutions and municipalities to hold discussions on the issue and implement the same in areas under their jurisdiction.
She said that initially a representation was made by George, from Njeezhoor grama panchayat, several months back and after he passed away due to ill health, others kept asking about the grievance raised by him.
Speaking to reporters here, she said several fresh representations were also received seeking fixation of beef price close to Rs 300 from the prevailing rates, which in some areas of the district are close to Rs 400.
"The representations and queries we received indicated the public's interest and therefore, we discussed the issue and decided that Rs 320 would be an appropriate price so that meat merchants also do not suffer any loss," Jimmy said.
She also said one panchayat has already fixed a price and once a few others do the same, others would have no option but to adopt the decision.
However, the move has not been welcomed by the Meat Industries Welfare Association which views the resolution as a threat to their business which is already facing several hurdles, like alleged extortion by goons, transportation issues and availability of cattle at reasonable prices.
The association's President, Salim M A, told PTI that if the state resolves these hurdles being faced by the members of the association, then the price of beef can be reduced by around Rs 50 per kilo.
He further said that the complaints before the District Panchayat was to fix the prices for all kinds of meat, mutton and poultry and its resolution also speaks of having uniform rates for all three.
However, only the price of beef has been fixed, which he claims is aimed at encouraging those companies involved in selling frozen beef the rate of which costs more than Rs 400 in some places.
Without fixing the rates of frozen beef, mutton or poultry, only the price of raw beef has been fixed which the association views as a move to harass its members.
Salim said there are already orders in place of the state government and the Kerala High Court that the price of beef cannot be fixed.
Moreover, it is not an essential commodity and therefore, the red meat's price cannot be fixed, he added.
Salim said the association has already moved the Kerala HC against Manjoor gram panchayat's decision and the court has sought the panchayat's stand on the association's plea.