The Union textiles ministry is learnt to have rejected a suggestion by the Jute Commissioner to lower the use of jute bags
The Jute Commissioner had recommended reducing the use of jute bags
for food grains packaging by five per cent, from 90 per cent to 85 per cent, for this financial year.
“In the ministry’s opinion, lowering the use of jute bags
will lead to a crisis in the industry and it will cause an abrupt fall in raw jute prices. It is because the availability of raw jute is more than the previous year,” said a source close to the development.
In the recent past, this is the first time when higher authorities in the textiles ministry have turned down suggestions made by a lower authority.
In May this year, the Jute Commissioner in his seven-point suggestion before the standing advisory committee had suggested lowering the use of jute bags
in phases to 50 per cent by 2023-24.
The ministry stated that in view of the raw jute production, performance and production trends of sacking bags over the years, reservation should be retained at 90 per cent.
Deputy Jute Commissioner Dipankar Mahato
could not be reached for comments.
The Jute Packaging Materials Act of 1987 makes it compulsory to use jute bags
for packaging of foodgrains and sugar of up to 100 per cent.
Trade unions and farmers’ associations, including the Bharatiy Janata Party-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh
(BMS) and Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) were vehemently opposed to the use of plastics in place of jute bags.
With the maximum number of jute mills and farmers concentrated in West Bengal, the government there had also opposed the move.
According to estimates, around five-six per cent of farmers have already stopped cultivating jute because of non-remunerative returns. The sudden decision to produce 580 gram lighter bags in place of 665 gram bags in 2015 had also impacted the industry. The present quality of raw jute is unsuitable for light bags.
The ministry’s recommendatory draft note rejecting Jute Commissioner’s suggestion is likely to be placed for approval by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs
(CCEA). Inter-ministerial consultations are expected to be over by September 15.
This year, there would be availability of 11.2 million bales (2 million tonnes), as against last year’s 10.2 million bales or 1.83 million tonnes of raw jute.
Jute mills have a capacity to produce 1.23 million tonnes of jute bags
of which 7,71,000 tonnes of B twill bags are purchased by the government. In 2012-13, the jute industry touched a peak production of 1.21 million tonnes or 3.65 million bales.