Golden days of the ‘Golden fibre’ coming back
Once jute was our main cash crop, known as golden fibre and jute has a golden past. It is one of the products that earns foreign currency. But glorious past of jute was lost because of the discovery and use of synthetic fibres. The durability of various synthetic products including polythene also reduces the use of jute materials. But things are starting to change and the good days of jute are coming back again.
Attempts are being made by the government to bring back the golden past of jute. The genome of jute has been discovered by Bangladeshi scientists and an international patent for jute has also been obtained on behalf of the country. Clothing made from jute fibres, Sonali (golden) bags as an alternative to polythene and paper made from raw jute pulp are also on the rise. The number of environmentalist, environmentally conscious people is increasing all over the world today. People are now more aware of the damage that synthetic products like polythene are causing to the environment. As a result, the demand of jute products is increasing.
At present, one third of the land under jute cultivation in Bangladesh is in the greater Faridpur district. However, due to the recession, the farmers turned away from jute cultivation. But due to good prices from last year, farmers have become interested in jute cultivation again. In Bangladesh, jute has been used for a long time to make jute yarn, rope, sacks, packing equipment, bags or sacks, hand-picked fibres and jute cloth. Besides, the country's textile factories are now making yarn by mixing jute with cotton and clothes are being made with them.
At the same time, the export of various jute products has also increased. Jute tubs, toys, jute denim, jewellery, mats, men's and women's shoe sandals, baskets, jute saris, punjabi and jute household utensils are in demand abroad. These products are mainly exported to America and European countries. Besides jute fibre, jute chalk has also created a big market. These products are used in particle board and celluloid. Sonali bags, an alternative to polythene invented in the country, are also a potential sector.
According to the government's Department of Agricultural Extension, jute has been cultivated in eight and a half lakh hectares of land in Bangladesh this year. The production has been about 9 million bales (one bell in 182 kg). An average of nine mound of jute has been cultivated per bigha. In most places jute has been sold for more than Taka three thousand per mound. According to the Bangladesh Jute Research Institute, in 2010 jute was cultivated in 6.08 hectares of land and the total production that year was 15.26 lakh metric tons. As such, this year's production has been about 16 lakh metric tons.
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension, jute was planted in 7.49 lakh hectares of land in the 2018-19 financial year and from there 85.76 lakh tons of jute was produced. In the fiscal year 2020-21, the target was set to produce 82.83 lakh tonnes of jute on 7.26 lakh hectares of land. Of this, only 6.82 lakh hectares of land has been cultivated, from which 77 lakh tonnes of jute has been obtained.
At present, 282 jute and jute products are bein exported to about 135 countries of the world. Exports of jute and jute products have increased by 31% in the fiscal year 2020-2021 as compared to last year, although it is 0.48% less than the target. According to the Export Promotion Bureau, jute and jute products worth more than US$ 1 billion have been exported four times in the last 12 years.
Nowadays people tend to use natural products and it is a matter of good news that a resolution of Bangladesh on the use of natural fibres including jute has been passed in the UN and this is the first time such a resolution has been passed. Passing this proposal has created an opportunity for the world to know about the eco-friendly product jute and its varieties use. In September 2019, at the Plenary Session of the UN General Assembly, a proposal was made by Bangladesh to take further initiatives for the world community to use jute and other natural fibres in the discussion on 'Agriculture Development, Food Security and Nutrition' under Agenda-24.
The proposal called for the use and development of jute and other natural fibres such as abaca, coir, kenaf, sisal, hemp and ramie primarily to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. After detailed discussions, UN member states unanimously passed a resolution calling for the use of some natural fibres, including jute. Sixty eight countries of the world have supported the proposal raised by Bangladesh at the UN Headquarters in New York on November 21, 2019.
We must be proactive in making the most of the horizons that have been opened for us by passing resolutions at the United Nations. It is now very easy to present the jute industry to the world. If we can increase the use of jute in the development of the textile industry, then our progress will be smoother. Jute is used as a raw material for making body parts and other materials for expensive products like aircraft bodies, BMW or Volkswagen, Nissan and Toyota. The demand for jute is constantly increasing. Besides, as plastic is banned in different countries of the world, a big market is being created for jute products. Now is the time to take advantage of this opportunity. Proper monitoring and care can make this move easier for us.
The biggest challenge facing the world today is climate change. Consequently, people are becoming interested in greening. In building that green world, our jute, jute Sonali bags and jute products can open new horizons. The passage of the resolution at the United Nations created an opportunity for us to enter a new era. Now we have to look at the production, processing and industrialization of traditional jute. Effective measures must be taken to bring back the golden days of golden fibre.
The writer is a banker and freelance columnist