The government is set to make it compulsory to package nine more agricultural products in jute bags to limit the use of environmentally harmful plastic bags and reduce dependence on the global market, a senior official said yesterday.
Farmers and traders will soon have to pack chilli, turmeric, onion, ginger, garlic, pulse, coriander, potato and rice bran in jute sacks. At present, the use of jute sacks for packaging some of these produces is optional.
“A decision has been taken in this regard. We expect a notice to be issued by the end of this year,” said Mosleh Uddin, director general of the Department of Jute.
The move comes as businesses have started packaging rice in jute bags in recent times in the face of heightened enforcement of the law, framed in 2010 to protect the interest of 40 lakh farmers and increase the use of environment-friendly fibre.
The government has made the use of jute sacks mandatory for packaging six commodities -- rice, wheat, maize, fertiliser and sugar -- based on the law of compulsory packaging of goods.
In 2013, rules were framed to implement a law stipulating that all traders as well as government organisations must use jute bags to pack the commodities.
It also asked all rice millers and traders to clear their stock of plastic bags by December 31 of the same year.
However, private companies remained non-compliant, citing reasons such as higher cost of jute sacks compared to plastic bags and problems in branding.
The market has ample supply of jute sacks to meet the demand for packaging, Mosleh Uddin said.
Jute millers will be able to meet the additional demand that will be generated for the inclusion of new products, he said.
About 50 crore more pieces of sacks may be needed for inclusion of new items in the rule for compulsory packaging, according to Mosleh Uddin.
Public and private jute mills will increase production, he said, citing that 125 jute millers, including public sector mills, are in operation.
A study conducted jointly by the Centre for Policy Dialogue and Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology in 2012 estimated that the annual demand for jute sacks would rise to 84 crore pieces from 90,000 pieces.
It will require 539,200 tonnes of raw jute a year, equivalent to about 77 percent of the total production of the fibre, according to the study.
Industry insiders said the enforcement of the mandatory packaging law has increased the demand for jute, allowing farmers to get better prices for the fibre.
As a result, the acreage of jute began recovering from fiscal 2014-15, according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.
Bangladesh produced 75 lakh bales of jute in fiscal 2015-16, up 0.7 percent from a year earlier, according to BBS.
Mills process two-thirds of the raw jute mainly for shipment abroad. Jute yarn and twine account for 65 percent of the sector's annual export receipts of over $850 million, according to data from the Export Promotion Bureau and Bangladesh Jute Spinners Association.