Move to revitalise dying jute industry: Govt agencies to use jute sacks in packing commodities

The government is going to make it mandatory to use jute sacks in packing certain commodities handled by government agencies as part of its plan to revitalise jute industry.

“We have started work on framing a jute policy. We want to make use of jute sacks in packing food grains, fertiliser, sugar and such other goods mandatory,” Jute and Textile Minister Abdul Latif Siddiqui told The Daily Star on Tuesday.

He mentioned that a commission has already been formed to draft a jute policy by October this year.

In the wake of around 21 percent drop in export of jute and jute products in recent times, the government in its stimulus package for the sector increased cash incentive from 7.5 percent to 10 percent.

Jute mill owners welcomed this saying such incentives will help reopen the closed jute mills and create huge job opportunities. But banks should come up to reschedule loans of sick and closed jute mills, they said.

Of the 160 jute and jute spinning mills in the country, around 30 are closed, a similar number of those operate off and on and about 100 operate normally.

The mills produced 5.84 lakh tonnes of jute goods in fiscal year (FY) 2007-08 while around 40 percent of the 55 lakh bales of raw jute produced in the country annually is exported.

Export earnings from jute products and raw jute stood at $318.34 million and $165.06 million respectively in FY 2007-08, according to the Export Promotion Bureau.

Latif Siddiqui said mandatory use of jute sacks would greatly increase local consumption of the eco-friendly jute product.

Citing bad experiences of the past, the minister said some government agencies like Bangladesh Agriculture Development Corporation (BADC) wanted to use a certain percent of jute sacks but Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation could not supply it. “We hope we can overcome such problems.”

The minister said another problem the sector faces is shortage of quality jute seeds. “There are projects for jute seeds in 100 upazilas. They produce only 300 tonnes but it is possible for them to produce 1,000 tonnes.”

Against this backdrop, poor quality seeds are imported and sold, Latif Siddiqui said. The jute policy being formulated will take into account all these issues.

Contacted, Bangladesh Jute Mills Association Secretary Abdul Barik Khan expressed the hope that government efforts would help revitalise jute industry.

He however said rescheduling of bank loans for the sick and closed mills is very important.

Source: The Daily Star, 17 May 2009


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