The reported fund crunch of the Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) and the resultant failure to buy raw jute from the growers is not acceptable. Every year the state-run agency buys substantial quantities of raw jute at the peak harvesting season between October and November. While feeding the jute mills under the corporation is the key objective, there is more to it in rendering the market price reasonably fair through bulk purchase to the advantage of the growers. Shockingly, this year the BJMC's cash crunch is reportedly at its worst. It indeed appears intriguing why the corporation did not take necessary steps to get the money from the government well in time. After all, it is none but the corporation which is now to blame and none else to be held liable for the consequences. It could be learnt that the BJMC sought Tk 4.50 billion from the government to buy raw jute until December last year but received only around Tk 8 million.
No wonder, the BJMC caused similar shocks in the past, though not to this proportion. The sad part is that this time the inability to buy raw jute has taken place at a time when the prospect of jute goods both in the domestic and international markets appears more promising than in the past. Over and above, the government is all smiles about diversification of jute products, particularly biodegradable jute poly bag -- definitely a success story for the country in product innovation. A good deal of such innovation and diversification as well as experimenting with newer ideas can be done by the BJMC. Failure to procure raw jute in time may seriously affect government plans about increased production of jute products of diversified varieties, including up-end products. Already, because of shortage of raw jute, production in the state-owned sector has drastically declined. The average production of BJMC-owned mills has more than halved, to little over 200 tonnes a day against a capacity of 600 tonnes. Industry insiders are of the opinion that delayed procurement at higher price adds to the cost and results in BJMC's losses. As regards this year's procurement, it is observed that even if the government now disburses the required funds, the BJMC will have hard time competing with the private mills and will be forced to resort to very limited production,
It is true that although the private sector jute mills will be doing their best having been able to buy raw jute at the right time, the BJMC's declined production, that too so abysmally, will tell upon the entire sector. Observers are more worried because the uninspiring state of the state agency at this point in time, when things should have been up for vibrancy, may be too costly -- not just for the BJMC but for the country as a whole.
The failure to procure raw jute in time is an indication that the BJMC, though now much lean in structure following privatisation of many mills, is not up to what it is expected to be -- proactive by all means. As the government keeps drumming up its optimism about the rosy days for the jute sector, isn't it time that the state agency was salvaged from what many fear a ruining syndrome.
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