Strengthening the supply and value chain of jute and jute diversified products is the key to bring lost glory of the “Golden Fibre” of Bangladesh back.
In recent times, the government has undertaken a number of initiatives to restore the lost glory of jute, a cash crop of Bangladesh that had a long success story. But stakeholders say much needs to be done before these measures bear any fruit.
The eco-friendly government policy against the use of polythene had opened new window for Bangladesh, the largest producers of jute.
But, weak supply and value chain processes are the barriers in realising the full potential of the emerging new export-oriented sector as well as the domestic market, industry insiders said.
“Higher dependency on import for seeds, while lack of warehouse in preserving jute deprive farmers in getting fair process,” Sekhar Bhattacharjee, team leader of SWITCH Asia Jute Value Chain Project told the Dhaka Tribune.
According to CARE Bangladesh data, Bangladesh needs 4,500 tonnes of jute seeds annually, while the production is only 1,200 tonnes. For this, the rest 3,300 tonnes are imported from India; the quality of which is questionable.
The farmers are not aware of scientific technology and farming strategy of jute farming regarding best post harvesting; that also affects raw-jute quality and prices, said Sekhar.
“Proper retting defines the quality of jute,” he said, referring to the process of separating the fibre from the plant.
Both, the experts and millers called for government policy support including incentives, low-cost financing and establishing warehouses in the districts. They also urged the government to purchase jute to ensure better prices.
They stressed that coordination among ministries and departments is essential to implement the initiatives the government has taken to improve the supply chain.
Bangladesh has a strong supply chain of raw jute. But, due to lack of value addition and marketing network with the global buyers, the manufacturers cannot tap the potentiality in terms of value.
In the traditional system, a local manufacturers earn little using, which can be multiple entering into the global value chain.
According to diversified products manufacturers, Bangladesh earns $600 exporting a tonne of jute, while it earns $1,000 to 1,200 per tonne exporting yarns.
From traditional packaging products such as sacks and bags, Bangladesh earn $1,500 to 1,800 per tonne from the same amount. Earnings from a tonne of jute shoots up to $3,000 to $10,000, when it is used in diversified products.
“We do not get the quality of fabric needed to produce diversified products as per the demand of buyers. This is due to the lack of quality jute and the use of traditional machinery,” Kakoli Sarkar, owner of Nilmadhav, an manufacturer of jute diversifed product, told the Dhaka Tribune.
On the other hand, establishing a network with the global retailers is not very easy as the buyers are unaware of Bangladesh’s strength on diversified products, she added.
The government should ensure improvement of the quality of jute fibre and fabrics through state-owned mills. It should also provide low cost financing for new entrepreneurs and existing ones to upgrade technology.
“In procuring quality jute diversified products, the colour of jute is most important. But, due to our traditional retting, we do not get our desired jute,” Rashedul Karim, managing director of Creation Jute Limited, told the Dhaka Tribune.
The whole supply chain should be monitored by a government body and the farmers must get fair prices to encourage farming otherwise supply shortage would hinder the sector, he added.
“The jute sector of Bangladesh is struggling between emotion, politics and market pressure, so it is difficult to undertake appropriate and forward-looking policies and strategies,” Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Research Director Khondaker Golam Moazzem said.
“Bangladesh cannot take the advantage of being the leader of jute value chain. We have failed to transform this into a supplier-driven value chain,” said Moazzem.
Stakeholders stressed on finalisation of Jute Policy 2014, an independent coordination body comprising of all stakeholders, translating genomes of own seeds instead of importing for the industry’s development.
Beyond shopping bags and hand bags, Bangladesh produces a wide variety of jute diversified products including handicrafts, wine bags, rags, conference bags, sandals, fashion clothing, jewelries, curtains, home textile, floor mats, decorative items, fashion accessories and carpet.