Timely action needed to save jute production
That jute growers count losses as the item, once called the golden fibre, now sells in the local market for prices less than its average production cost indeed does not augur well for the sector as a whole. According to farmers, as quoted in a New Age report on Saturday, they need to sell a maund of jute for, on an average, Tk 1,000 while they have had to spend more than that to produce the same amount of jute, especially because of an increase in prices of fertilisers and cost of labour this year. Additionally, according to Department of Agricultural Extension officials, around 50 per cent of jute cultivated this year have been harvested as of August 22. With this fact in consideration, one has reasons to fear that when the rest amount of jute will be harvested, jute market may go down well, leaving the growers literally in the lurch.
It is important to note that even after getting downsized under successive governments that pursued wrong policies prescribed mainly by different international lending agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in the sector over the past few decades, the Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation still buys a significant portion of local jute every year. Moreover, if done in time, the purchase usually helps growers a lot to bargain with the middlemen who hardly miss any opportunity to collect jute from the local market at a throwaway price. On the other hand, falling victim to mismanagement, corruption and irregularities, as the state-owned entity, unfortunately though, is yet to come out of losses and needs to borrow the money required to buy jute from the government on a regular basis. Regrettably, however, as in previous years, the government appears unwilling to provide the required loans to the BJMC in time this year as well. It is needless to say that such a situation is certain to dampen the jute market further.
Ironically, all this occurs at a time when the government has been making claims on more than one occasion ever since it assumed office in 2009 that it has taken a number of steps with the intention to boost jute production as well as the jute industry. Besides, even the prime minister has sought to depict a rosy picture about the future of the jute sector just the other day when she was bragging about her government’s contribution to the recent invention concerning jute genome sequencing by a number of local scientists. The government needs to realise that, coming out of rhetoric, it needs to do something effective to help jute industries, public and private, to run well in the first place. At the same time, it needs to help farmers to reduce significantly jute production cost by giving the latter price support and the like.
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