The Pakistan jute industry is looking for government support in technical infrastructure for industry along with guidance and long term policy support for jute cultivation to substitute import of raw material, exports of jute products after value addition which can earn handsome amount of foreign exchange for the country, which currently stands at around $14 million according to Saqlain Akhtar, Senior Vice President of Pakistan Jute Mills Association (PJMA).
All want the industry needs is to avoid using hazardous packaging material like polypropylene for food storage and utilize jute bags instead so that the industry can plan new investment in capacity utilization and local cultivation of jute.
Presently, government departments are using 60 percent polypropylene bags and 40 percent jute material for food packaging, particularly wheat storage. The government's move to avoid hazardous packaging would not only make the country self-sufficient in raw material but also help concentrate more on finding export avenues as the majority of foreign markets are in tight grip of two regional countries.
The Pakistan jute industry was established in 1966 on the request of the then government to fulfil the local need of grain storage whose production factories and cultivation were in East Pakistan. The cultivation in Southern Punjab region was started 3-4 years ago on experimental basis on a small piece of land. Now it has grown to 200 acres solely on local industry's initiative. Therefore, the industry needs support from the government.
The proper local production of jute will not only eliminate the risks of international trade issues but will also save foreign exchange spent on raw jute import from neighbouring countries. The local production will bring the industry's costs down and would increase production.
There were five jute mills in operation in the private sector with combined capacity of 125,000 tons per annum while the current production is 100,000 tons per annum. The industry has a direct employment of 25,000 people while it provides indirect livelihood to 100,000 people. The industry also provides $100 million imports substitution while it contributes over Rs 800 million to the economy in the form of several duties, taxes, levies and surcharges.
Despite the fact that Pakistan has more fertile land for the cultivation of jute crop, unfortunately this potential has not been explored yet.
All over the world the use of jute bags has been suggested as the best option because jute is a natural fiber, 100 percent biodegradable, environment friendly, and can be used multiple times. India and Bangladesh are the biggest countries producing jute in the world.
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