Jute industry can do with a boost

Santosh Patnaik

VISAKHAPATNAM: Entrepreneurs have failed to tap jute's huge potential in North Andhra. Though they were keen on a proposal for a jute cluster in Srikakulam, not much progress has been made in this regard.

The area under jute crop in Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts has also remained static.

Industry sources said with the Centre and the State Governments doling out sops to the jute industry, there was immense scope for increase in area under the crop. However, the total extent of area under jute crop had remained at two lakh hectares in North Andhra for the past few years.

The reason cited by the farmers for their failure to produce premium quality mesta is that they do not get quality seeds. While the crop produced in the region is fetches Rs.800 a quintal, the West Bengal farmers are able to sell their crop at Rs.1,000.

Textile policy

In the new Textile Policy, the Ministry of Textiles is extending 20 per cent investment subsidy -- up to a maximum of Rs.50 lakhs -- to the entrepreneurs.

The State Government is also offering a subsidy of 15 per cent to small and medium enterprises, power subsidy at 70 paise per unit and refund of sales tax paid over a period of five years.

Trends suggest that the overall export market is very promising. The Centre has also made the use of jute bags compulsory for sugar, foodgrains and other commodities.

The only bottleneck, some entrepreneurs feel, is the Centre's failure to impose dumping duty on Nepal for indiscriminate marketing of its jute products in West Bengal and other States.

However, sources say, the Centre does not want to impose any duty due to its strategic relationship with Nepal.

Ban on plastic

"The State Government should also issue a GO to enforce plastic ban more effectively and expedite the proposal for establishing a jute cluster in Srikakulam," said Swarnandhra Jute Mills managing director B.V. Rama Rao.

The Governments of Delhi, Maharashtra and Gujarat have issued GOs making the use of jute bags mandatory.

The entrepreneurs also feel that the development of a cluster will not only provide employment opportunities to the locals in the backward North Andhra but also encourage diversification into production of carpets, wall hangings, footwear and garments.

T.A.N. Gupta, an entrepreneur from Rajam, said prospective investors should be extended bank interest at concessional rate besides strict implementation of single window clearances.