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Pragmatic steps reviving golden fibre glory

Published : 07 Mar 2023 03:11 AM | Updated : 08 Mar 2023 01:51 PM

The government has embarked upon a major move to popularise the lost glory of golden fibre - jute, experts said.

Jute is turning out to be an important natural and environment friendly raw material for multifarious use. As its demand is increasing at home and abroad in the backdrop of the global awareness towards ‘green’ solutions, he added. 

Although the government has taken a special initiative for quality production and diversification of jute products, but the export earnings has not registered significant progress.

The export earnings of jute and jute goods have decreased by 23.68 percent to stand at $610 million during June-February of the current fiscal while it was $799.82 million during the corresponding period of the last fiscal.

The export earnings from this sector stood at $1.13 billion in 2021-22, according to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data.

Textile and Jute Minister Golam Dastagir Gazi said that 11 individuals and institutions were awarded in total 11 categories on Jute Day in order to encourage them to achieve the development targets of the government by undertaking research activities in jute field development, achieving self-sufficiency in jute seed production, increasing the production and export of conventional and versatile jute products. 

He said that Jute Goods Research and Training Centre will be set up to enhance the utilisation of jute resource and boost export earnings from this sector.

The problems faced by the sector should be properly detected and measures to be taken for its development, the minister said adding that the government will expand the research works. 

If the existing law in favour of jute products are implemented properly, it will contribute significantly in the economic development of the country, he mentioned.

He further said that many countries are increasing use of jute and jute goods. “That is why, we are trying to increase its production as well as use to take this sector to a newer height,” the Minister said.

Referring to golden fibers, Industries Minister, Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun said that jute is an integral part of our heritage and culture, which plays an important role in the country's economy and environmental protection. 

“In post-independence Bangladesh, the majority of foreign exchange came from jute. I believe, jute still has that economic potential. We produce very high quality jute,” he mentioned. 

The Industries Minister said that the National Jute Day is being celebrated for the sixth time to take coordinated activities to develop the jute sector. 

“Jute played a significant role in our freedom movement,” he said, adding, “Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman brought up the issue of contribution of jute while talking about our economic inequality in the announcement of the six-point movement. Jute was one of the most important issues in Awami League's election poster in the 1970s general election.”

Abdul Barik Khan, director-general of the Bangladesh Jute Mills Association (BJMA), said, “We are experiencing inaction on the part of the law-enforcing agencies in implementing it on a mandatory basis despite having the jute packaging law.”

“Therefore, the jute sector is suffering from irreparable losses. The mandatory use of jute bags can bring back the golden days of the sector,” he mentioned.

However, the increasing demand also encouraged farmers to grow jute on a large scale during the last cultivation season.

Dr. Md. Al-Mamun, Chief Scientific Officer, Department of Reproduction of Bangladesh Jute Research Institute, said in the national and international reality, there is a need to take concerted initiatives by government and private entrepreneurs for the development of jute cultivation and multipurpose use of jute fiber under changing conditions. 

There is no alternative to modernization of jute to ensure its versatile use, he said, adding that the minimum market price of jute can be fixed for product diversification by adding modern machinery to government jute mills and keeping production stable. 

“Compared to any other country, Bangladesh's topography and soil are particularly suitable for jute production, so there is a demand for jute and jute products in around 60 countries of the world. Jute should be recognized as an agricultural product as well as an agro-processed product to benefit industries and processors,” he mentioned.

Earlier, jute was cultivated as traditional agricultural practice but now it is being cultivated for commercial purpose. Due to technological development and huge research and development of the sector, along with the government's attention, it has been possible to achieve the higher production.

In order to continue the trend, the government has taken various initiatives to provide training to farmers to produce better quality jute since standard has been a concern for a while. Also, fertilizers are being distributed free of cost.

The days ahead seem bright for the golden fibre but a lot of work remains to be accomplished. Industry insiders believe that much needs to be done but the golden days are indeed returning.

Now, the golden fibre has begun to get back its lost glory in recent times as the country is witnessing record production levels, thanks to many initiatives taken by the incumbent government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to revitalise the sector. 

In early 20th century, jute was the main source of foreign earnings in East Bengal as it was the only exportable product in the country during the time. 

After the partition of India in 1947, there had been a significant change in the jute business. In the 1950s, the industry began its journey in the East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, with the establishment of jute mills in Narayanganj and Khulna. 

With the gradual expansion of jute cultivation, the industry contributed immensely to the field of employment. By the late 60s, a total of 67 jute mills were set up as the business turned very profitable.

After independence, all the jute mills were nationalised and brought under the BJMC, which was established on March 26, 1972, through a presidential order.

In the first four years of independence, more than 80 percent of the country’s total foreign currency earnings came from jute and jute products, according to the BJMC's 2016-17 annual report.

Thus the golden fibre was the biggest foreign currency earner then.

However, the jute started losing its prominence over the course of time as use of polythene and other synthetic materials took over the market as an alternative to jute, resulting in closure of many jute mills, including the country’s largest Adamjee jute mills.

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