Jute industry seeks continued protection

BUttressing burlap:The quality of raw jute fibre was a reason behind the industry’s lopsided product mix.— File Photo  

The jute industry stressed on the importance of continuation of the protection extended through the mandatory Packaging Control Act at a meeting where the industry’s “over dependence on one product and a single-customer” also figured on the agenda.

The meeting was chaired by the Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani — her second such stakeholders meeting, since taking charge. Among the other points of discussion were quality of B-Twill bags used for packing foodgrains, productivity norms for man and machine, increasing exports and jute goods diversification.

The issue of improved living and working conditions, and compliance with statutory payments and payments of workers dues came up for discussion.

The issue of the protection extended to the jute industry featured prominently. It was pointed out that the Jute Packaging Materials Act , 1987 was meant as a support to the industry and not a substitute to the industry’s growth and development.

Over the years, the Act has undergone substantial dilution. While fertiliser and cement sectors have been totally exempted from using jute packaging, there has been relaxation in case of sugar and foodgrains as well. As against 100 per cent norm, only 20 per cent of the sugar output and 90 per cent of foodgrains are required to be packed in B-Twill sacking now.

The domestic market was the mainstay of of the 12.3 lakh tonnes jute goods industry with 74 per cent of the output being accounted for by sackings. Domestic consumption was 87 per cent of consumption with only 13 per cent of this product heading to the export markets.

Bag quality

Admitting that the level of dependence on government for selling sacking was high, the industry said that the quality of the raw jute fibre in India was a reason behind the industry’s lopsided product mix. The industry depends to a large extent on fibre import from Bangladesh, its key competitor.

The meeting also flagged the issue of the quality of jute bags and import of bags from two neighbouring countries, against whom anti-dumping investigations have been started recently. A study conducted on basis of four parameters — dust emission, noise levels, illumination and occupational heath safety conditions — found most of the jute mills wanting.