Focus on proper enforcement of jute packaging law
More than 50 percent of domestic production of jute will be consumed locally if the mandatory jute packaging act is implemented properly, according to an estimate of local think-thank Centre for Policy Dialogue.
"The jute industry is highly dependent on exports, which can be reduced substantially by ensuring full implementation of the compulsory jute packaging act," CPD Additional Research Director Khondaker Golam Moazzem said yesterday.
He spoke at a discussion organised by the Jute Protection Committee in association with Action Aid at the National Press Club in the city.
The event focused on polices and planning for the development of the jute industry, which employs around 40 lakh farmers and 150,000 workers.
Around 5.39 lakh tonnes of raw jute out of the 9.56 lakh tonnes produced in Bangladesh in 2009-10 would be required to pack food grains, cement and sugar to be fully compliant with the packaging law, CPD estimated in a study in 2010.
Currently, three-fourths of the domestically-produced jute are exported either in raw or processed forms due to low domestic use.
The government passed the mandatory jute packaging law in 2010 to help the jute millers and growers come out of losses due to its falling demand in the global market.
However, traders and millers continued ignoring the law in the absence of enforcement.
The Department of Jute has recently started a mobile court drive to compel the millers and traders to use jute sacks to pack rice for marketing domestically.
Moazzem said the government has to take strict measures to ensure full implementation of the law.
"It is very important considering the present situation of the industry," he said, stressing the need for reducing jute production cost to provide local buyers with jute bags at low prices to increase its use.
“The sector should be made competitive."
The jute industry has been suffering from an acute downturn in export earnings because of the Middle East crisis and a slump in demand in Africa, Thailand and India in the last one year.
Export receipts fell 20 percent year-on-year to $824 million in 2013-14, according to data from the Export Promotion Bureau. Export earnings continued falling in the opening month of 2014-15 with a 24 percent year-on-year decline to $61 million.
"Our mills will run well if jute sacks are used to pack rice," said Babul Chandra Roy, director for marketing at Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC), which runs state-jute mills.
The use of polythene has to be stopped to ensure use of jute bags, said Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association.
"The jute packaging law cannot be implemented without banning the use of polythene," she said, adding that the government had earlier allocated Tk 25 crore to clear deposits of polythene from the river bed of Buriganga. Rizwana recommended framing master plan for the jute industry.
A lot of money will be required to clear polythene from the beds of rivers, said Mirza Azam, state minister for textiles and jute. "Except for some businessmen, almost all nationals support the compulsory jute packaging act."
The increased use of jute bag is necessary to protect the environment, Azam said.
“Increased domestic consumption of jute sacks will boost its demand and thus contribute to increase its prices," Azam said, citing that buyers are offering low prices for jute. The ministry will formulate a plan for the whole industry, he said.
The technology of state-run mills has not long been upgraded, which now hurts the mills' productivity, said Shahidullah Chowdhury, president of Bangladesh Trade Union Centre and a member of the Jute Protection Committee.