The jute industry is reeling under a demand crisis and four mills are now under a lock-out. Nearly one lakh persons are out of work in the industry due to production cutbacks. Moreover, the West Bengal government not buying jute bags as promised is a big menace for the jute industry.
The State government had agreed to pack 100 percent of its rice output in gunny bags against the request of Indian Jute Mills Association (the apex industry body), the industry is now facing a situation where a very small portion of the State’s annual rice output is being packed in gunny bags.
West Bengal is the top rice producers growing some 150 lakh tonnes of rice annually. Based on it, the jute industry estimated 4.5 lakh bales of B Twill bags for packing foodgrains. Procurement is far short of this, said IJMA chairman Raghavendra Gupta.
At the June 26 meeting between the industry and four Ministers of the Mamata Banerjee government, it was decided that the Centre would be moved jointly by the industry and the State government to include items like potatoes.
However, little progress is made in approaching the Union Textile Ministry (which governs the jute sector) and the West Bengal government has also not issued any fiat for packing potatoes in jute bags. The State produces some 9.5 million tonnes of potato which could require 15 crore pieces of bags for packaging.
Now, 90 percent of the foodgrains and 20 percent of sugar are mandated to be packaged in gunny bags. In the face of stiff competition from the synthetic packaging materials, such executive orders have become the stronghold of this traditional industry.
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