Bangladesh aims to make a turnaround in the jute sector by leveraging new prospects in its diversified jute products both home and abroad.
Even though the jute sector was the largest export earner for the country until the 80s, it now has been outpaced by RMG sector by a large margin.
Huge global demand for non-traditional jute goods has opened up a window of opportunity for the country as the world is now putting more emphasis on eco-friendly goods, especially jute items, local jute officials said.
In addition to the global market, a large domestic market for diversified jute products is also expected to be created very soon as the environmental concerns are also on the rise in the market which is almost flooded with plastic goods.
State Minister for Jute & Textile Mirza Azam expressed hope that the jute sector will again outperform the RMG sector in the next five years.
The government’s accelerated efforts to revive the jute sector were also reflected in the increased jute yields and a steady rise in income from jute goods in recent years.
A dedicated cell namely the 'Jute Diversification Promotion Centre (JDPC)' has also been formed to promote diversified jute products.
“There is a huge potential for our diversified jute products across the globe as the world is now looking for eco-friendly jute products. We’re also getting prepared to tap the market,” said Nasima Begum, executive director of JDPC.
“There was frustration among jute growers a few years ago.But they are now happy as they are getting better prices due to higher demand of jute meant for making diversified jute goods,” she added.
Now, there is also a growing trend inside the country to use new jute goods, she said, adding that jute bags are being used in many seminars and conferences, while the use of jute-made office and household items is rising as well.
Some 30 to 35 percent of yearly jute production is now being used for making diversified jute goods, according to the JDPC.
Bangladesh exported non-traditional jute products worth Tk 750 crore last fiscal and the export is seeing 25 percent annual growth, official data suggests.
Diversified goods, among others, include different kinds of bags, office items, household items, home textile, decoration items, shoes, yarn and fabric, pulp & paper and fashion accessories and some composite items.
Traditionally, Bangladesh has been producing jute yarn & twine, jute sacks, bags, Hessian, and carpet backing cloth (CBC) etc.
Usually, thicker six counts jute yarn is used for making these items, which is not suitable for making non-traditional products, Nasima informed.
According to the law, any non-traditional item made with jute yarn below six counts and 50 percent jute will be considered as diversified jute products, she also informed.
“Many small jute mills are being set up in the private sector to meet the increased demand for fine jute yarns,” the JDPC boss said.
JDPC has been able to organise around 400 active diversified jute products makers. So far, 135 items have been developed by these small jute goods producers and more products will follow.
Apart from these handmade items, Bangladesh is seeing a huge potential in jute geotextile (JGT), a composite item, as it will be used as road pavement, river embankments etc.
A government projection suggests that jute geotextile use by roads & highways department, water development board, LGED and Bangladesh Army will be of Tk 7,000 crore a year.
However, jute goods makers said there is no problem with regard to overseas market for their products, buy problems lies with local readiness.
Raw material shortage along with the lack of new design and new product ideas is a major problem for local non-traditional goods makers, they said.
Nasima Begum said the JDPC has a raw materials bank to support the product makers. In addition, the government is setting up new looms at Karim Jute Mill under BJMC to augment the supply of raw materials.
The government has a plan to set up a new BJMC mill to produce viscose from jute in the country, which will meet all the domestic demand of viscose alongside creating scope for exports, she informed.