Response [Jute industry ]

Print edition : September 02, 2016

THIS is with reference to the article “Jute disaster” (Cover Story, August 5), which gave a bleak picture of the jute industry. The report highlighted the poor living conditions of jute workers with a few examples.

However, the report is completely wrong in not recognising the support provided by the Government of India to the industry over the years. Jute is perhaps the only commodity for which the government provides an assured market by way of direct purchase of jute products, with the objectives being that jute farmers should get better prices for raw jute and that the employment of the jute mill workers is protected. Under the “National Jute Policy 2005”, the government is continuing its support of the industry by reserving foodgrains and sugar for packing in jute materials. Roughly, 14-15 lakh metric tons (MT) of raw jute is produced annually and more than half of this is purchased by the government in the form of sacking. The total government purchase of sacking stood at 4 lakh MT in 2005-06 and reached a figure of almost 8.5 lakh MT in 2015-16. Thus, the purchase by the government has constantly been rising. In the same period, the share of sacking purchased by the government increased from 45.8 per cent to a whopping 92.9 per cent, indicating an almost complete inability of the industry to sell in the private market.

The share of sacking purchased by the government of the total jute goods produced has also increased over the years, from 29.5 per cent to 68.9 per cent. In terms of protection to farmers, raw jute used for government sacking stood at 22.3 per cent of the total raw jute produced in 2006-07 and went up to 57.6 per cent in 2015-16. It is therefore completely wrong to suggest that government support is gradually moving towards synthetics. In reality, it is exactly the reverse. The problem lies in the inability of the Indian jute industry to modernise and develop new markets and products. Bangladesh, which produces about half of the jute India does, is able to export more than three times the amount the Indian jute industry exports.

Subrata Gupta, Jute Commissioner, Government of India, Ministry of Textiles, Kolkata.

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