Textile Sector – Cotton, Jute, Wool, Silk, Handloom, etc.

Recent woes of the jute industry in West Bengal

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jute cultivation in India

Mains level : Read the attached story

Member of Parliament (MP) from Barrackpore constituency in West Bengal met the Union Textile about issues concerning jute farmers, workers and the overall jute industry.

What is the news?

  • The Barrackpore MP had earlier written to West Bengal CM, seeking her intervention into the “arbitrary decision” of capping the price for procuring raw jute from the mills.
  • He was referring to the Office of the Jute Commissioner (JCO)’s September 30 notification mandating that no entity would be allowed to purchase or sell raw jute at a price exceeding ₹6,500 per quintal.

What is Jute?

  • Jute is the only crop where earnings begin to trickle in way before the final harvest.
  • The seeds are planted between April and May and harvested between July and August.
  • The leaves can be sold in vegetable markets for nearly two months of the four-month jute crop cycle.
  • The tall, hardy grass shoots up to 2.5 metres and each part of it has several uses.
  • The outer layer of the stem produces the fibre that goes into making jute products.
  • But the leaves can be cooked, the inner woody stems can be used to manufacture paper and the roots, which are left in the ground after harvest, improve the yield of subsequent crops.
  • A ‘Golden Fibre Revolution’ has long been called for by various committees, but the jute industry is in dire need of basic reforms.

Jute production in India

  • India is the world’s biggest producer of jute , followed by Bangladesh.
  • Jute is primarily grown in West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Andhra Pradesh.
  • The jute industry in India is 150 years old.
  • There are about 70 jute mills in the country, of which about 60 are in West Bengal along both the banks of river Hooghly.
  • Jute production is a labour-intensive industry. It employs about two lakh workers in the West Bengal alone and 4 lakh workers across the country.

Significance of Jute

  • Compared to rice, jute requires very little water and fertiliser.
  • It is largely pest-resistant, and its rapid growth spurt ensures that weeds don’t stand a chance.
  • Jute is the second most abundant natural fibre in the world.
  • It has high tensile strength, acoustic and thermal insulation, breathability, low extensibility, ease of blending with both synthetic and natural fibres, and antistatic properties.
  • Jute can be used: for insulation (replacing glass wool), geotextiles, activated carbon powder, wall coverings, flooring, garments, rugs, ropes, gunny bags, handicrafts, curtains, carpet backings, paper, sandals, carry bags, and furniture.

Why in news now?

  • Mills are now procuring raw jute at prices higher than what they are selling them at after processing.
  • The government has a fixed Minimum Support Price (MSP) for raw jute procurement from farmers, which is ₹4,750 per quintal for the 2022-23 season.
  • However, as the executive stated, this reached his mill at ₹7,200 per quintal, that is, ₹700 more than the ₹6,500 per quintal cap for the final product.
  • Though the Union government has come up with several schemes to prevent de-hoarding, the executive believes the mechanism requires a certain “systematic regulation”.

What happened to supply?

  • What made the situation particularly worrisome recently was the occurrence of Cyclone Amphan in May 2020 and the subsequent rains in major jute producing States.
  • These events led to lower acreage, which in turn led to lower production and yield compared to previous years.
  • Additionally, as the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) stated in its report, this led to production of a lower quality of jute fibre in 2020-21 as water-logging in large fields resulted in farmers harvesting the crop prematurely.
  • Acreage issues were accompanied by hoarding at all levels – right from the farmers to the traders.

Where does India stand in comparison to Bangladesh?

  • As per the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), India is the largest producer of jute followed by Bangladesh and China.
  • However, in terms of acreage and trade, Bangladesh takes the lead accounting for three-fourth of the global jute exports in comparison to India’s 7%.
  • This can be attributed to the fact that India lags behind Bangladesh in producing superior quality jute fibre due to infrastructural constraints and varieties suitable for the country’s agro-climate.
  • Further, as the CACP report stated, Bangladesh provides cash subsidies for varied semi-finished and finished jute products.
  • Hence, the competitiveness emerges as a challenge for India to explore export options in order to compensate for the domestic scenario.

What is at stake?

  • The jute sector provides direct employment to 3.70 lakh workers in the country.
  • It supports the livelihood of around 40 lakh farm families, closure of the mills is a direct blow to workers and indirectly, to the farmers whose production is used in the mills.
  • West Bengal, Bihar and Assam account for almost 99% of India’s total production.

 

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