KARACHI - Jute storage bags have advantage of life with the use of three or four times compared to other storage bags but without the support of government it cannot possible; the industry is at the verge of collapse and is looking for the support of government.

Food department of the different provinces are the major buyers of jute bags but the slightly replacement of the jute bags by the other material bags gradually curtailing the demand which brought a fear in industry where some of the jute mills have stopped their operations.

The jute industry of country is seeking the government’s support to increase export of value-added jute products which currently stands at around $14m. All it needs is government’s resolve to avoid using hazardous packaging material for food storage and utilise jute so that the industry can plan investments in capacity utilisation and local cultivation of jute. This would not only make the country self-sufficient viz raw material but also help concentrate more on finding export avenues as the majority of foreign markets are in tight grip of two regional countries.

‘If the government provides support in technical infrastructure for industry along with guidance and long-term policy support for jute cultivation in Pakistan to substitute import of raw material, the exports of jute products after value addition could earn handsome amount of foreign exchange for the country,’ Saqlain Akhtar, Senior Vice President of Pakistan Jute Mills Association said.

While briefing journalists at a Jute Mill about the industry’s process, potential and impediments, he said that the industry was established in 1966 on the request of the then government to fulfill the local needs of grain storage whose production factories and cultivation were in East Pakistan.

‘The cultivation in Southern Punjab region was started 3-4 years ago on experimental basis on a small piece of land. Now it has grown to 200 acres solely on local industry’s initiative. Therefore, the industry needs support from the government,’ he added. SVP of PJMA added that proper local production of jute will not only eliminate the risks of international trade issues but will also save foreign exchange spent on raw jute procurement from neighbouring countries. ‘The local production will bring the industry’s costs down and would increase production,’ he reasoned. He added that there are five jute mills in operation in the private sector with combined capacity of 125,000 tons per annum while the current production is 100,000 tons per annum.

The industry has a direct employment of 25,000 while it provides indirect livelihood to 100,000 people. The industry also provides $100 million imports substitution while it contributes over Rs 800 million to the economy in the form of several duties, taxes, levies, and surcharges. SVP said all over the world the use of jute bags has been suggested as the best option because jute is a natural fibre, 100 percent biodegradable, environment friendly, and can be used multiple times,’ he added. It is pertinent to mention that many countries including India and Bangladesh have declared jute as the only source for the grain and wheat storage as packaging material while in Bangladesh food self-sufficiency has been achieved by encouraging policies and supporting infrastructure conducive for the storage of food grains.

 India and Bangladesh are the biggest countries producing jute in the world.

Unfortunately, he added, in Pakistan this potential has not been explored yet despite the fact that Pakistan has more fertile land for the cultivation of the crop while the myth regarding jute plantation possible only in some countries has been broken with successful local crops resulting in good quality raw jute”.