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Bangladeshi scientists give a ray of hope for jute industry

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2014-02-06 14:30:00 – Dhaka

Diversified uses of jute can help give a new life of the jute sector. The scientists have given us a ray of hope having already unraveled the genome for 'Tosha' jute, they have now sequenced the DNA of the traditional variety of jute. Bangladeshi scientists have stated that they are working to develop a special jute variety that can replace cotton for fabric manufacturing. They will use genome sequencing of jute in developing the special varieties of the golden fibre. The local jute variety which is known for producing soft and quality fibre could be easily blended with cotton.

The potential for uses of jute was explained at a recent media briefing by a microbiology professor at Hawaii University, who led a group of Bangladeshi scientists in sequencing the genome of local jute variety.

The scientists showed sarees and fabrics for making shirts and other clothes, made of jute fibre as well as by blending jute and cotton fibres. Further, the snow-white variety of jute, used for producing fibre for textile industry, which was prone to the fungus attack, the scientists have genome-sequenced the fungus. This will facilitate development of the fungus-resistant snow-white jute variety and help lower the volume of cotton imports for the textile industry.

Meantime, the rise in the government's target of jute cultivation acreage for this season, reports say, bodes well for the sector, as a whole. The increased target is attributable to the trend of gradual increase in local and international demand for the Bangladesh jute and jute-goods because of their environment-friendly traits.

Moreover, the government has a plan to raise domestic uses of jute to 25 per cent in the next 10 years from, according to the jute policy 2011, the current rate of around 13 per cent. Additionally, 25 jute mills, out of a total of 27 across the country, are now in operation. Most importantly, the government has already approved a law intended to ensure mandatory use of jute packets in the country which, if implemented, can result in widespread rise in the domestic uses of jute.

But, the country's jute industries are maintaining their operations, mostly with outdated technology. This has resulted in low productivity and high material costs for production. It is time for Bangladesh to adopt a technological profile to meet the present-day techno-economic needs. As a by-product of jute, jute geo-textiles have immense potential, both in domestic and international markets, as jute possesses much more advantages than the synthetic fibres. It is now widely used in controlling soil erosion of roadsides, riverbanks and hillsides. India is using jute geo-textiles for construction of its national roads. This could likewise be used in road construction to a large extent in Bangladesh. It is biodegradable and will not spoil the nutrition of soil.

On its part, the government now needs to go for snow-white jute cultivation on a large scale to save foreign currency spent on imports of cotton. The main objective of the ongoing research is to replace cotton with jute fibre. The jute researchers said that the annual demand for jute would immediately increase by 1.5 million bales for various domestic uses once the Jute Packaging Act was enforced. Using jute's genome sequencing, it would be possible to develop jute varieties that are capable of withstanding hostile weather and diseases.

Diversified uses of jute will certainly help the revival of the jute sector. This will, in future, help also to rejuvenate the rural economy, directly and indirectly. With the golden days of jute sector now tending to reappear, the government and the private sector need to continue making their concerted efforts for increased domestic production of quality jute fibre and jute goods and also for boosting their exports

Jute had been the principal cash crop for farmers at large for long even after independence, while jute industries that once dominated the industrial sector had provided employment to thousands of people for decades.

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