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Intl demand for jute gets robust, local mills still remain inert
Aug '08
Demand for jute and jute products is growing worldwide but unfortunately for Bangladesh the opportunity will not have much to offer. While the international market is ready to soak up massive volumes of jute produce, public sector jute mills in the country are on the verge of collapse.

Especially at a time when the UN has declared 2009 as the International Year of Fibre, the Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) finds itself helpless without funds to buy raw jute from farmers.

The corporation has apparently failed to persuade the Finance Ministry to allocate the required amount for purchasing the raw material, and to make matter worse, the farmers and traders have refused to sell jute to BJMC on credit.

Of the 77 jute mills in the country, only 15 are now with the Government, 48 have been privatized and the remaining have either been closed or leased out. Closure of such a huge number of mills has left nearly 60,000 workers in an uncertain economic state.

Moreover, even if the private and leased out mills purchase their full requirement of jute raw material, there would still be an additional of one million bales of jute remaining unused. This will prove to be a disincentive to the jute farmers in the country.

The BJMC should have arranged for the funds from the Government long before the start of the jute season. However, now, it is already too late and there is little that can be done to improve the situation.

The fibre which once stood as the largest foreign exchange earner for the country is now in a miserable plight and largely because of poor planning and neglect by the key policy makers. So much so that Bangladesh which had a monopoly in raw jute and jute goods in the international market has lost its grounds and the damage caused seems to be irreparable now.

However, with a renewed global demand for an eco-friendly fibre, hopes for a flourishing trade of jute have also revived. This will be one of the rarest of the opportunity for Bangladesh to prove its potential as a producer of 80 percent of world's best quality jute. But to realize this goal, Government intervention by way of reviving moribund factories will play a crucial role in regaining the lost international market and probably to expand it even further.

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