It is encouraging news for jute farmers in Bangladesh that NatUp Fibres, a French company, is thinking of setting up a joint venture in Bangladesh to use jute-based products to be used in car interiors. The use of natural fibre is being contemplated because it is not only eco-friendly, but also reduces weight of the overall vehicle that helps boost fuel efficiency. The company specialises in making a host of interior parts including dashboards and door panels, and it has been buying around 1,400 tonnes of jute per year. If a joint-venture company were to be set up here, it could certainly pave the way for other manufacturers to invest in Bangladesh which would both generate employment and give a boost to jute farmers. The global automobile industry uses up to 100,000 tonnes of natural fibres a year and Bangladesh supplies between 10,000 and 12,000 tonnes of that need. This venture would add value to the golden fibre and we would have a diversified product range for jute.
To boost production, policy initiatives would have to be undertaken to ensure that farmers get a better price for the natural fibre. The two biggest variables have been unfavourable weather and middlemen who make a windfall leaving farmers with little to recoup their investments. The government could set up purchasing schemes for growers directly and a host of financing schemes can be taken by the state-owned banks to give easy loan facilities to farmers, who would be encouraged to grow more if they were certain that a ready market is available for the fibre—one that would make financial sense to invest time and labour in.