Govt decision has jute industry in quandary
The sector supports around 4 million farmer families and provides direct employment to 260,000

The Union ministry of consumer affairs & food distribution’s decision to approve dilution of 258,000 bales of jute bags (one bale is 180 kg) for the kharif marketing season of FY18 and the rabi marketing season of 2018-19, has unsettled the jute industry.

Total packaging requirement for the rabi marketing season is pegged at 11.26 million bales and the dilution proposed is 10 per cent of this requirement. But the question is why should the industry still depend only on guaranteed jute bag orders.

Union textiles minister Smriti Irani, who was in Kolkata recently to address the 27th Technological Conference, organised by the Indian Jute Industries Research Association (IJIRA), not only pitched for diversification of jute products, but went to the extent of the saying that there is a need to look at the potential of jute for the building of smart cities and infrastructure. “Today when we talk about diversification of jute products, we look at not only cardholder, shopping bag, etc, but also at the potential of jute in building of smart cities and infrastructure,” she said.

Irani said the jute industry is of the size of Rs 10,000 crore in terms of valuation but has a huge potential to grow. Emphasising on the need for research and development in geo-textiles, the minister said the scientific data can infuse confidence in industry partners and ministries like road transport and also provide enough impetus to include geo-textiles for building infrastructure.

Significantly, jute is already being used in building of roads. Studies have validated that with the use of jute materials the lifespan of roads increases. The golden fibre has also been effective in checking soil erosion. People have now started talking about the need to utilise jute for building infrastructure like roads and river embankment.

 

The minister said in 2017-18 the Jute Corporation of India (JCI) has spent Rs 46.78 crore for extending the minimum support price. The ministry has formulated a scheme for promoting use of geo-textiles in the northeast and has sanctioned Rs 427 crore for this initiative.

Meanwhile, experts said dilution plan is projected to wipe out nearly Rs 8 billion business for the jute industry. The government purchases form the bulk of the industry’s supplies of B Twill bags used in packaging of food grains. The ministry of consumer affairs & food distribution has made necessary modifications in the supply plan for rabi marketing season 2018-19.

The ministry has also urged state governments and Food Corporation of India (FCI) to provide funds in time for jute and HDPE/PP (high-density polyethylene. Polypropylene) bags as per the revised supply plan. States would also take necessary steps to ensure that procurement operations are not impacted. Interestingly, the Centre’s decision has come at a time when the jute industry is believed to be capable of meeting the government demand for packaging material. De-reservation is expected to make way for a situation when plastic bags would force jute mills to cut production.

The jute textile industry is one of the major industries in the Eastern India, particularly in West Bengal. The jute sector supports around 4 million farmer families and provides direct employment to 260,000 industrial workers and 140,000 in the tertiary sector.

Jute millers under the umbrella organisation of the Indian Jute Mills Association (IJMA) have decided to urge the textile ministry to reconsider its decision.

ritwikmukherjee@mydigitalfc.com

Columnist: 
Ritwik Mukherjee