Reviving the local market is important as export of jute and jute goods have nosedived due to the falling demand in two major export destinations — Turkey and India
Proper implementation of the mandatory packaging law on using jute bags is essential to revive the local jute market, industry insiders say, as the large market for jute packaging in the country is still untapped.
Additionally, use of jute also helps implement sustainable practices and protect the environment.
Reviving the local market is important as exports of jute and jute goods have nosedived due to the falling demand in two major export destinations — Turkey and India, which accounted for more than 30% and 25% of Bangladesh’s total jute yarn exports, respectively.
Moreover, due to the coronavirus pandemic, exports have dipped significantly in major markets in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa and it is very hard to get fresh orders at the moment, the insiders said.
Also Read - 12 state-run jute mills reopening soon
Bangladesh enacted the Mandatory Jute Packaging Act 2010, which was enforced in January 2014, to promote the country’s jute sector.
A total of 19 products are on the list of the act: paddy, rice, wheat, maize, fertilizer, sugar, spices, turmeric, onion, ginger, garlic, coriander, pulses, potato, flour, crude flour (atta) and rice bran, poultry feed, and fish feed.
Initially, the government made the use of jute sacks mandatory for packaging six commodities in 2010.
In 2013, it framed rules to implement the law stipulating that all traders, as well as government organizations, must use jute bags to pack the commodities.
The Department of Jute says that although the first few years were a bit slow to adopt the practice, its application is currently visible in all 64 districts of the country.
Mohammad Ataur Rahman, director general of the Department of Jute, said that they are conducting mobile court sessions every day to ensure the use of jute bags.
“In order to make agriculture and development of the country sustainable, the use of jute products must be ensured. I collect reports from 64 districts every day and we are making every effort to ensure the enforcement of the law,” he added.
The department conducted 1,424 mobile courts sessions, filed 1,424 cases, and fined Tk95.54 lakh in the 2020-21 fiscal year. In FY2019-20, it had conducted 1,328 mobile courts, filed 2,035 cases, and fined Tk92.01 lakh for violation of the law.
The mobile court also ensured the use of 335 million jute bags in FY20 and more than 340 million pieces in FY21, said the jute department.
Mridha Mohammad Moniruzzaman, vice president of the Bangladesh Jute Spinners Association (BSJA), said that although the law was passed in 2010, its implementation has been largely visible since 2017-18, almost 7 years after the enactment.
“A number of traders are using jute bags now, but not 100%. Many of them are reluctant, and there are loopholes in the law too,” he added.
Many traders are reluctant to use jute bags as these cost a little, said Moniruzzaman.
“They are absorbing the increased cost of everything, but do not want to spend an additional 5-10 poisha on jute bags. This is actually a lack of goodwill and greed for more profit,” he added.
Mohd Shafiqul Islam, chairman of Bangladesh Jute Goods Exporters Association (BJGEA), told Dhaka Tribune that the law has not yet been fully implemented due to some greedy traders.
“It would have been very good for the jute industry if we could promote domestic consumption. But the traders are still using polythene bags for more profit,” he added.
Mohammad Ataur Rahman said that they not only lack goodwill, but also patriotism.
“It is not possible for the department and the manufacturers alone to enforce the law. Traders of 19 products are also responsible for this,” said the director general.
He also said that because it costs a little more, the traders find various loopholes to use polythene bags instead.
“It is important to have patriotism and goodwill for law enforcement and sustainable development. Polythene is accumulating at the bottom of the rivers, the fertility of the lands is being wasted — if we do not understand now, the next generation will suffer,” Rahman further said.
Another official from the Department of Jute said that some of the country's top conglomerates have sought approval from the High Court to use polythene on some products under various pretexts.
“Although they have taken this approval for a temporary period on the pretext of sudden floods in the Haor areas, they are still using these,” said the official.
He also said that sometimes the mobile courts are not able to fight against their influence.
Jute experts and manufacturers said that the government should increase procurement of jute bags to boost local sales.
Professor Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) told Dhaka Tribune that enforcement needs to be increased to ensure jute packaging.
“It will create a large domestic market for jute and jute millers,” he added.
Meanwhile, India recently approved reservation norms for Jute Packaging Materials for Jute Year 2021-22.
As per the reservation norms, 100% food grain and 20% sugar will be packed in jute bags during Jute Year 2021-22 under the JPM Act, 1987 and it is likely to bring relief to 370,000 workers employed in jute mills and ancillary units.
Mentioning this, Mridha Moniruzzaman said that such a decision should be taken in Bangladesh too.
“Moreover, India is one of the biggest buyers of our jute products. Their farmers are still agitating for our jute products,” he added.
He also said that if anti-dumping could be abolished through diplomatic relations, India would once again become a major export market for Bangladesh.
Mohd Shafiqul Islam also said the same.
Currently, 40 million people in Bangladesh are directly or indirectly dependent on the jute sector. Bangladesh produced 9.09 million raw jute bales in the 2020-21 fiscal year.
The country earned $1.16 billion in FY21 through export of jute and jute goods.