As overall exports, consumption and production of jute is facing a gradual drop the Pakistan Jute Mills Association (PJMA) Secretary General Muhammad Younus has called for the immediate attention of the government. The Association demanded that the government must introduce mandatory packaging acts like many regional countries to back the industry.
According to the data compiled by the industry, the production of jute (hessian, sacking, and others) in the country is almost stagnant at 101,722 tons in 2013-14 compared to 103,957 tons a decade ago in 2003-04 after touching record 137,411 tons in 2008-09.
On the other hand, the consumption of raw jute was 134,427 tons in 2007-08 that has now come down to 108,917 tons in 2013-14. The consumption reached a peak of 145,147 tons in 2008-09. The declining patterns of consumption and production had adversely affected exports as well impacting the countryâ€™s revenue proceeds.
The exports of jute goods were 13,563 tonnes in 2007-08 which rose to 19,102 tonnes in 2012-13 but now have fallen down to just 10,039 tonnes in 2013-14. In contrast to this, the import substitution has also declined from $100m in 2006-07 to $95m in 2013-14 while it $116m in 2008-09.
The government itself has contributed heavily to the environment degradation in 2014 by using 64 million polypropylene bags (equivalent to 3.520 billion polyethylene bags) for wheat and grain storage, the release quoted PJMA Secretary General Muhammad Younus.
The jute sector is under tremendous pressure due to various challenges comprising synthetic packaging, lack of research and development, import dependence, labour intensive segment, and rising food commodity prices.
Import dependence of raw material can further be reduced if production of jute is promoted by the government. Pakistan used to be the biggest importer of raw fibre for its domestic consumption but now China and India lead the fiber import market.
In the region, India is the leading producer and the biggest consumer of jute with about 45% contribution to the total produced in the world, while Bangladesh is the largest exporter of raw fibre.
Pakistan should learn from these countries and promote jute cultivation. The jute industry is labour intensive as compared to other industries. The manufacturing wages as percentage of manufacturing cost in the jute industry is around 20 per cent, while it is 7pc in textile and 3pc each in polyester and tractor industries, said Younus.
This shows that the industry needs support from the government in terms of utilities including power and improvement in laws regarding minimum wages and labour.
There are five mills in the private sector in the country and the total capacity of the industry is 125,000 tonnes per annum with current production level of 100,000 tonnes. The direct employment in the industry is 25,000 and it provides indirect livelihood to 100,000 people.
Pakistan government need to encourage the use of jute bags especially for wheat and foodgrain storage as it has a longer life instead of polypropylene.
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