Former adviser to the caretaker government and Executive Chairman of the Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman has said that jute is essential for Bangladesh to maintain its economic growth.
“Jute is not only our past glory but also our golden future. Jute is the new growth driver of Bangladesh's economy. It is immensely important for the country to achieve its goals,” he said while addressing a seminar on the diversification of jute for the development of the jute industry, held at the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DCCI) auditorium in Dhaka on Wednesday.
The seminar was jointly organized by DCCI and the Ministry of Textiles and Jute.
State Minister for Textiles and Jute Mirza Azam was present as chief guest at the program, while Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman was special guest. Rashedul Karim Munna, convenor of the DCCI Special Committee on Jute Diversification and managing director of Creation Pvt Ltd, presented the keynote paper at the seminar.
Speakers urged for a clear road map for the jute sector, demanding financial support from the government to encourage jute entrepreneurs.
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They added that a ‘Jute Paper Act’ could be beneficial for the entrepreneurs in this sector.
Dr Zillur Rahman said that a third wave of jute as an economic driver was ongoing at present.
“In order to achieve 8% GDP growth or more, and to graduate to the status of middle income country, we need to facilitate new growth drivers besides the RMG sector,” he added.
“Bangladesh is progressing in jute diversification gradually, but the important part is a proper government policy framework. The world is concerned about climate change and this has opened up a new window of opportunity for us,” he further said.
Meanwhile, DCCI President Abul Kasem Khan called upon the government to formulate a Jute Paper Act, as it would benefit both the jute industry and the environment.
“It is established now that Bangladesh can produce good quality of pulp from jute, and high quality paper can be produced from this pulp. Some 40% of commercially collected wood is used to produce paper, for which 30 million acres of forest is being destroyed every year. We may save our forests by using jute pulp for the paper industry,” The DCCI president said.
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He also urged for diversification, the use of modern technology and extensive research in the jute industry to further increase exports. Bangladesh earned $962.42 million from jute exports in the 2016-17 fiscal year, as compared to $918 million in FY2015-16.
“The world market for jute bags will reach $2.6 billion in 2022, and Bangladesh can use this opportunity,” Abul Kasem Khan added.
Bangladesh is currently producing 33% of the total jute in the world, and exports 90% of the raw jute produced. The country spent $701 million on the import of jute pulp in 2017.
Speaking at the seminar, State Minister for Textiles and Jute Mirza Azam said: “About 40 million people in Bangladesh are directly or indirectly involved in the jute sector. The government has enacted the mandatory ‘Jute Packaging Act,’ and production of raw jute in the country is increasing every year as a result, and jute farmers are getting their desired prices as well.”
A total 6.5 million bales of jute were harvested in Bangladesh in 2014, with 7 million in 2015, 8.5 million in 2016 and 9.2 million in 2017, he added, saying that the jute sector now produces 240 types of products as compared to 135 last year.
The state minister also underscored the importance of creating a skilled workforce and conducting extensive research.
“To create a skilled workforce, the government has established 12 Textile Institutes and 6 textile colleges in the country,” he said.
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Mirza Azam also called upon jute entrepreneurs to make jute bags at competitive prices, so that people could willingly use them instead of those made of polythene.
Chairman of Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation Dr Md Mahmudul Hasan, Former director of Bangladesh Forest Research Institute Dr AFM Akhtaruzzaman and Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation Adviser (Research) Babul Chandra Roy were the designated discussants at the seminar.
Babul Chandra Roy said: “Bangladesh imports viscose worth $700-800 million every year, and this viscose is made of wood. But we have the potential to produce Viscose from jute.”
DCCI Special Committee on Jute Diversification Convenor Rashedul Karim Munna highlighted that Bangladesh now exports jute and jute goods worth $1 billion, but this could be raised to $5-7 billion with proper policy guidelines.
Jute Research Institute Director Dr Md Abul Kalam Azad, Jute Department Director General Shamsul Alam, Bangladesh Jute Association Secretary A Barek Khan, former senior vice-president of DCCI MS Shekil Chowdhury, former DCCI directors Ahmed Hossain Majumder, AKD Khair Mohammad Khan, Entrepreneur Shapon Kumar Das, DCCI Convenor MS Siddiqui, and DCCI Director SM Zillur Rahman took part in the open discussion session.