Exciting possibilities centered on jute
A number of factors is driving up the demand for jute and jute products worldwide. First of all, more and more countries are leaning towards jute as environment-friendly . Jute is also proving to be competitive against its synthetic substitutes. The use of jute for the making of a far larger number of what are perceived to be environmentally safe products compared to the synthetically produced ones, is also creating greater international demand for jute.
Thus, Bangladesh as the biggest lone producer of jute both in quantity and quality, can exploit the new situation by exporting greater amounts of raw jute and jute-based products. Specially, new and diversified use of jute should be attempted.
The mapping of the genome of the jute seed by several Bangladeshi scientists working in collaboration, has opened up a new horizon for the jute sector. If this research breakthrough can be properly exploited, the same should lead to substantial increases in the production of raw jute of better quality.
The country presently produces some 5 million bales of jute on average annually. But even in the Pakistan era in the absence of research and planned production some 7 million bales used to be produced. Therefore, powered by this new technology there is no reason why the farmers here would not be able to produce well surpassing 7 million bales.
The higher production would make a lot of sense as the demand for jute is rising both locally as well as internationally and the prices are good. The higher production of jute would be only meeting the higher demand. Government in Bangladesh should make law to ensure compulsory use of jute as packaging materials. That would lead to a significant push up in the demand for jute internally. Externally, the demand for the golden fiber is already higher than in the past and this demand appears likely to reach an even higher level in the backdrop of the climbing worldwide demand for biodegradable products for environmental reasons. Thus, there are opportunities to earn greater foreign currencies by exporting more raw jute and jute products.
It should be possible now to extend jute cultivation to marginal lands or ones not considered fit for its cultivation such as drought stricken or salinity affected areas. The mapping of the jute seed genome will enable ample production of jute even in such naturally handicapped areas. Besides, healthier jute plants with bigger stalks or output will be possible in normal areas.
Cumulatively, using this technology farmers would be in a position to grow substantially increased output of jute. The strong demand for the primary produce for uses in different industries both inside and outside the country, could mean that farmers will have no difficulty in disposing off their produced stocks at remunerative prices. Thus, from the farmers to users in different industries, traders and other associated with the processes, all stand a chance of making gains from greater production of jute and its diverse uses.
Government only has to play a proper steering role to enable proper developments in this sector with its helpful policies. Specially, government should ensure that farmers do use the new technology and remain motivated to engage in stepped up jute cultivation. To that end everything must be done to ensure gainful prices for farmers. On the other hand, emerging jute industries should be aided with appropriate fiscal, financial and technical assistance.
More than a decade ago it was reported that paper mills in Bangladesh would be using green jute plants to produce pulp and paper. But since then, the move in this direction surprisingly lost momentum. Jute is recognized as one of the superior category raw materials to produce paper. More significantly, Bangladesh can also probably turn out to be a major exporter of pulp and paper in the international market by producing the same from green jute plants. Recently, some newspaper reports were noted about experimental ventures being again made to produce pulp and paper from jute plants..
One would only hope that these projects like the previous ones would not die down. The determination must be there to press ahead with these projects to start producing pulp and paper from jute. It is regrettable that this country spends precious foreign currency in importing huge quantities of paper, including newsprint and other types of quality paper, when it can save the entire amount and improve its balance of payments position by producing and meeting all its demands for paper at home by utilizing jute. More significantly, Bangladesh can also probably turn out to be a major exporter of pulp and paper in the international market by producing the same from green jute plants.
Years ago, jute’s uses as jute-plastic, yarn for cloth making, as cloth for upholsteries in cars and furniture and for matting embankments, were invented. The prospects for greater use of jute products have brightened worldwide as manufacturers are increasingly searching for environment friendly and biodegradable products to replace synthetic products which are now considered as environmentally unsound.
Private entrepreneurs, on their own, should have worked on these inventions to turn those into commercial ventures. But private entrepreneurs in many cases are found not interested to invest in research and development. Therefore, it is imperative for the relevant ministries to promote the production of new jute-based products by engaging in dialogue with the private sector both at home and abroad.