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Little excitement over jute policy

The Packaging Order can bring comfort to the jute farmers as also the mill workers


The policy has laid stress on production of diversified jute goods



JUTE MARVEL: A display of jute wall hangings and decorative articles which are in keen demand at a fair

IT IS perhaps not without reason that the first-ever jute policy, announced by the Union Textiles Minister on April 15, has failed to excite either the industry association, the Indian Jute Mills Association (IJMA), or the State Government, which had been pressing for the policy.

Conversations with a cross-section of industry representatives and analysts reveal that one of the main reasons behind the industry's peeve are the suggestions made in the draft policy at a stakeholders' conference in Kolkata in December last, on increasing the time frame of the Jute Mandatory Packaging Order (JPMO) from one year now to five years has not been conceded by the Government. \

The present order, which envisages a 100 per cent reservation for foodgrains and 90 per cent for sugar, expires on June 30. The industry is more engaged now in convincing the government of the need for maintaining status quo on this order.

Industry experts argue that external props and protectionist measures such as this cannot continue for long especially in an open market economy.

Jute majors, however, are unwilling to accept the JPMO as a protectionist measure in the first place. "The survival of the jute industry hinges on this order which in turn can bring comfort to the jute farmers as also the 2.5 lakh mill workers and their families,'' says R. K. Poddar, Deputy Chairman, IJMA.

The draft policy had laid out a JPMO with a five-year validity as it was felt that this period could be used for consolidation. The just announced policy has retained the annual periodicity.

On the export front, there is widespread scepticism about the target set in the policy. "The country's entire jute output is of lesser value'' argued an IJMA official adding that even if there was to be a scaling up of production, it was ambitious to assume that Bangladesh would concede the over 65 per cent world exports share that it now enjoyed.

The policy has laid stress on production of diversified jute goods saying that there is an expansion of the market for jute composite products and geo-textiles and there should be a 35:65 ratio between production of diversified and traditional items.

The industry, however, does not see this happening in the foreseeable future. They say that the present production ratio of 5 per cent (for non-traditional items) is dictated mainly by the market.

Industry analysts felt that the operationalisation of the Jute Technology Mission, which had received the Planning Commission's nod , would perhaps help the sector more, at least in the short run.

The mission encompasses sub-systems pertaining to agro-research, raw jute processing (as quality is a major problem now), diversified product and market development. Till such time, it is felt that such policy announcements will continue to have only academic interest.

INDRANI DUTTA

in Kolkata

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