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Search date: 03-04-2018 Return to current date: Click here

Developing jute sector sustainably

Abdul Wadud | April 03, 2018 00:00:00

Bangladesh is one of the best jute-producing countries across the world. Jute is eco-friendly and closely linked with the livelihood of farmers as a cash crop. Better and diversified use of jute can ultimately contribute to the overall economy as it has the highest scope for value addition - starting from raw jute to finished products made of jute.

Bangladesh exports roughly USD 30 billion worth of readymade garment (RMG) products a year while major raw materials like fibre, a portion of yarn, fabric and accessories with dyeing and finishing chemicals are sourced from outside and value addition thereby is roughly 20 per cent. It means value addition through RMG exports is only USD 6.0 billion.

If we can ensure multiple ways of utilising jute for domestic use and export, its contribution to overall Bangladesh economy would be much bigger than the current size. But to reach that level and have such an impact, following issues are very important:

1. PROPER GRADING OF JUTE FIBRE QUALITY: Authentic grading is the key to success. No compromise can be made with quality and grading. Unfortunately, our grading system is most unreliable although we produce the best jute fibre in the world. It is of paramount importance that "grade-wise" fibre is segmented properly and malpractices that hamper proper grading are strictly removed. The malpractices like putting water or any other form of impurity to gain short-term profit eventually affects reliability of grading system.

2. INTRODUCTION OF BETTER JUTE INITIATIVE (BJI): Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) has worked very well in cotton sector in order to ensure demand for sustainable cotton through making cotton cultivation sustainable to farmers as well as giving brands and retailers a traceable and reliable source of sustainable cotton. As per the BCI FACT SHEET-2017, "In 2016, less than 20 per cent of global cotton production was independently verified as grown using more sustainable practices…." This is very encouraging. Compared with other sustainable initiatives in cotton, BCI is really expanding very fast, meeting the need for sustainable cotton business and ensuring a proper balance in the value chain.

Jute is an eco-friendly fibre that is bio-degradable and there is a real demand for such fibre if we can have a common platform for the jute value chain that would ensure its reliability, quality, traceability and sustainability. We can term the common platform "Better Jute Initiative (BJI)" and bridge the gap between jute fibre brands and retailers through addressing the following points and making a proper strategic plan:

1. Commitment from the buyer (brands and retailers)

2. Sustainable jute fibre production through -

a. Use of better agronomy, cultivation practice and fibre preparation that would ensure better quality and productivity of jute fibre with less impact on environment through use of less input (chemical, fertiliser, water etc) that would eventually reduce cost and increase farmers' profit.

b. Use of scientific technique to ensure authentic fibre grading system and individual bale identification system to ensure traceability.

c. Continual improvement in authenticity of grading system, fibre quality, buyers' commitment and profitability of farmers.

3. Ensure proper traceability in the value chain - step by step i.e., initially up to fibre and gradually to spinning/weaving/dyeing etc.

Introduction of a sustainable initiative for jute fibre would bring an overall positive impact on the jute sector through better agronomy, less water use, less use of fertiliser, pesticide and chemical, higher production and lower cost, better access to market for jute products and higher profit for the value chain.

Abdul Wadud is a Management Consultant of TRANSFORM. [email protected]

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