President Pranab Mukherjee at the inauguration of the international conference on natural fibres, marking the end of the platinum jubilee celebrations of the National Institute of Research on Jute and Allied Fibre Technology (NIR-JAFT), Mukherjee said that a host of reasons has led to the disquieting trends in the jute industry and called for collaborative effort by all stakeholders to develop the jute sector.
The role of jute and allied fibres needed to be evaluated in a changing world economic and environmental scenario. Unfortunately, there has been a lack of growth orientation in the jute industry during the last few decades. In the face of stiff competition from substitutes, mainly synthetics, it has gradually lost its prime position as a packaging material.
He termed the absence of up-gradation and modernization, over dependence on government's order for mandatory use of sacking bag, as also stagnant productivity levels among the causes for the decline of the industry. Serious attempts should be made to transform the image of jute objects from cheap packaging material to value-added products suitable for diversified end-uses.
The global concern for environment and increasing consumer preference for bio-degradable natural fibre products have opened a window of opportunity for enhanced use of jute. To realize these potential, technical capabilities needs to be boosted through greater investment, technological up-gradation, market promotion and facilitatory government role.
Mukherjee said that the National Fibre Policy 2010 aims at transforming the jute sector from a traditional labour-intensive industry to a self-reliant modern industry with state-of-the-art technology and wider product range. The Jute Technology Mission is expected to help the growth of jute-diversified products, especially in the export market.
The jute agriculture in general and post-harvest technology in particular needs special attention in terms of technology support and extension activities. Improvement in fibre yield, and production of fine fibre with improved strength, colour and lustre and devoid of defects that arise on account of faulty retting, will ensure remunerative return to the jute farmers.
Mukherjee, underscoring the need for judicious development of appropriate process technologies, said that it will pave the way for economic benefits to add to farmers and small entrepreneurs dealing with these fibres. There is need for sharing of knowledge and experience about different natural fibres and their products.
Also steps must be taken to cut down the cost of production for which improved machinery has to be developed and measures for energy and waste management adopted. To cope with the competition from other packaging materials like lighter synthetic bags, greater diversification is necessary to manufacture jute bags of varied types.
For instance, production and promotion of hydrocarbon-free jute bags could cater to a large domestic market, besides meeting its export demand. The President said that he envisages the use of jute in manufacturing composite material, suitable for specific applications in automobiles and construction, to prove benefit in terms of cost-performance ratio.
India is now the largest producer of raw jute fibres and jute products in the world. Industrial production of jute goods comprises mainly packaging materials, sacking and hessian, which account for 82 percent of the total production.
The Jute industry needs to make serious attempts to give golden fibre jute an image makeover from a cheap packaging material to value added product suitable for diversified end-uses.
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