The jute industry has taken exception to the standing advisory committee under the Union textiles ministry recommending dilution in the mandatory jute packaging rules.
The committee has suggested relaxing the compulsory jute packaging norms by up to 80 per cent for sugar and 20 per cent in the case of foodgrain, in favour of HDPE (high density polyethylene) and PP (polypropylene) bags. Besides, the panel has pitched for fixing of rate contracts for HDPE/PP bags before August-end.
Alarmed, a section of the industry has sought the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to stymie the proposal. Stating that jute sacks constitute 68 per cent of total jute goods production and provide livelihood to 30 million jute farmers and industrial workers, the mill owners say the dilution move would spell disaster for the industry.
"The committee has made the case for dilution based on the assumption that the jute industry would fail to supply bags for packing sugar and foodgrain. But these concerns are misplaced. Production is always higher than consumption and there is no case for dilution or de-reservation,” said a leading jute mill owner.
While a million tonnes of jute sacks are needed to pack foodgrain, 0.2 million are necessary for packing sugar. The jute industry has the capacity to churn out 1.5 mt of sacks.
The Jute Packaging Materials Act (JPMA) of 1987 says all foodgrain and sugar meant for government procurement must be packed in jute bags. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister, takes a decision on any dilution, under the rules allowed. It had earlier turned down all recommendations for dilution, in the interest of farmers and workers.
In every agriculture season, the Food Corporation of India packs 27-29 per cent of the 250 million tonnes of foodgrain produced in jute sacks, on behalf of 12 state food-procuring agencies.