Last year, backed by favourable weather, jute production was around 108 lakh bales, which was about 15 per cent higher than the previous year.
“This year we are getting conflicting reports on jute production. While the use of certified seeds will increase jute production, there has been some damage to the standing crop due to lack of rains,” said Atri Bhattacharya, secretary, National Jute Board and jute commissioner, Union ministry of textiles.
The production this year would not exceed 100 lakh bales, said Bhattacharya.
There could be a 12 per cent drop in production of raw jute to 95 lakh bales this year, as compared with 108 lakh bales in 2011-12, said sources in the jute industry.
Last year the Directorate of Jute Development had estimated sowing coverage of 9, 50,000 hectares for jute and allied fibre during 2011-12. This year, jute acreage was almost the same as last year, Bhattacharya.
Jute sowing usually starts by the end of March and continues up to the end of May. Sowing requires a hot and humid weather with regular bouts of showers. However, this year, the state did not receive adequate showers, which is ideal for sowing.
Murshidabad and Nadia, the two key jute producing districts of the state, accounting for almost 60 per cent of the country’s total jute production,
Last year, jute prices had been spiraling down on account of a good sowing and higher production of the crop. This year, the government had increased the minimum support price (MSP) of raw jute from Rs 1675 per quintal to Rs 2200 per quintal this year.
Meanwhile, the National Jute Board is planning to initiate talks with the government of West Bengal to give jute sector the status of an industry, which will give it several exemptions.
Jute industry, which is currently highly dependent on sacking, should look at innovation and diversification to improve its market.
“There is a risk of being dependent on sacking alone as some markets like Punjab are already running looking for alternatives and are conducting pilot project for storing grains in silos,” said Bhattacharya.
The Rs 8,500 crore jute industry is facing a severe labour crunch, he said. “We are running out of labour as people are drawn towards employment under NREGA. We need to provide proper working conditions to help retain these labourers.”