Experts and businesses on Wednesday urged the government to provide policy support, including enactment of jute paper act, to unlock the golden prospect of Jute as another economic growth driver of the country along with apparel and remittance.
They came up with the call while speaking at a discussion on ‘diversification of jute goods for the development of jute industry’ held at Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry auditorium.
Financial support from the government and utilising modern technology would also help entrepreneurs to explore diversified jute goods in the context of growing demand for eco-friendly products across the world, they said.
Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Abul Kasem Khan moderated the discussion where state minister for textile and jute Mirza Azam, former advisor to the caretaker government Hossain Zillur Rahman and Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation chairman Md Mahmudul Hasan, among others, spoke.
Md Rashedul Karim Munna, convener of DCCI special committee on diversification of jute, presented the keynote paper pointing
out that there was a demand for 500 billion pieces of bags across the world.
Use of polythene bags was banned in some countries, including Australia and places in Europe, while banning the product was underway in many other countries with a view to adopting eco-friendly items, which would ultimately increase the demand for jute bags, he said.
Munna forecasted that it would be very easy for Bangladesh to increase export of jute goods to $5 billion from $1 billion within a few years if adequate policy support was ensured from the government.
Speaking about the use of modern technology in jute processing, he informed that India had been putting emphasis on modernisation since 1990s whereas Bangladesh was yet to focus on the issue.
He also mentioned the need for research for development of diversified jute goods, human resources, product and market development, and financing as major tasks to attain high return from the jute industry.
Abul Kasem Khan said although the technologies were there to make pulp and paper from jute, the production was not yet commercially viable.
Enactment of jute paper act would help to grow jute-based paper production as it worked when jute packaging act was enacted, he said.
Use of jute-based paper would open up a new horizon for Bangladesh as it would give 100 per cent value addition to the economy and save foreign currency which were spent for importing paper, he said.
‘We should treat jute as a golden future not a golden past,’ said Hossain Zillur Rahman adding jute could be one of the economic growth drivers of Bangladesh.
‘We have reached the current level relying on readymade garments and remittance sent by migrants, Bangladesh needs another economic growth driver to become middle income country. Jute could be that driver,’ Zillur, also executive chairman of Power and Participation Research Centre.
‘The environment-related thinking of the countries across the world and diversification of jute products with the help of technologies are the two major reasons which have opened the window for jute,’ he said.
To explore the prospect of jute, Zillur said, it had become very much essential to convince the policymakers as it would not be possible without policy support.
Mirza Azam said the government had enacted mandatory Jute Packaging Act and for that act, production of raw jute in the country had been increasing every year and jute farmers were getting their desired price as well.
Currently, entrepreneurs are producing 240 types of jute products in the country, an increase from last year’s 135, he said.
Speaking about the progress of enlisting jute as processed agricultural product, Azam said, ‘Significant development has been made in the last few days.’ At present, entrepreneurs are getting 20 per cent cash incentives against diversified jute goods.
Cash incentives will be given against all sorts of jute products when it is enlisted as processed agricultural product.
Md Mahmudul Hasan also said government support was required for replacing the age-old machines.
Funds like Green Fund and Export Development Fund were also needed to facilitate entrepreneurs, he said.