Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday declared that jute and jute goods will now be considered as agro-based products so that this foreign exchange-earning sector could get all the benefits country's other agro-based items get.
"Jute is an agro-based product, but other products which have little relations with agriculture are getting special benefits as the agro-based products. But jute is not getting those benefits. This is unfortunate. Let me declare one thing, we'll consider jute as an agro-based product," she said.
The prime minister was speaking at a programme organised by the textiles and jute ministry at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre to award individuals and organisations who played a pivotal role in implementing the Mandatory Jute Packaging Act 2010.
Textiles and Jute Minister Emaj Uddin Pramanik presided over the programme. Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed, State Minister for Textiles and Jute Mirza Azam and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Jute Ministry Saber Hossain Chowdhury also spoke on the occasion.
Hasina made the declaration amid repeated requests at the function to declare jute as an agro-based product.
Currently, agro-based products are getting 20 percent cash incentives on their exports.
Earlier, she distributed crests to 41 individuals, who played an important role in making sure that the mandatory jute packaging law was enforced consistently in 13 categories.
The prime minister also inaugurated a three-day jute fair at the same venue. More than 135 products from the Jute Diversification Promotion Centre were put on display at the fair. Bangladesh currently ranks first in the world in jute export, and second in jute production.
The prime minister said the fate of millions of farmers and workers depends on the jute sector. "Awami League is the organisation of farmers and labourers as we always work for the change of their lot," she added.
She said the government has taken steps to reopen the closed jute mills for the sake of the country's jute sector. "We've reopened some closed jute mills and made sure these mills run properly."
Hasina said if these mills could be operated well then it would be possible to resume the operation of other mills as well.
Putting emphasis on the diversification of jute products, she said jute mills will have to replace their old machineries.
"There're so many modern machineries in the market, we'll have to bring those, we'll have to use those, and if we can do that, there'll be no tension regarding jute," said Hasina who wore a jute-made sari and shoes.
Terming jute as an environment-friendly product, the prime minister said the domestic demand for jute has increased a lot due to various steps taken by her government.
She also said the government will form a wage commission to increase the wages of workers and hoped that their problems would be solved through the commission.
Hasina came down heavily on the previous governments, including those of Ziaur Rahman, HM Ershad and Khaleda Zia, for their activities that led to the destruction of the country's jute sector.
All governments after the assassination of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman neglected the jute sector, she said.
The prime minister mentioned that BNP during its rule in 1991 signed an agreement with the World Bank to shut down jute mills in Bangladesh. "But the same organisation (WB) signed another agreement at the same time with India to help establish more jute mills there. Then I put this matter in parliament and sought the government's clarification."