By Jayajit Dash
The jute industry is set to lose business of Rs 500 crore this month, owing to its inability to supply 1,50,000 bales of jute bags for packing foodgrains. The shortfall in the availability of jute bags is expected to be met through synthetic bags - polypropylene and high-density polyethylene bags. The industry has already informed Jute Commissioner Subrata Gupta of its inability to supply the required number of jute bag bales.
Manish Poddar, chairman of the Indian Jute Mills Association (IJMA), said the industry didn't have the capacity to supply extra orders, as well as the backlog, in January. Poddar is understood to have taken the decision after a meeting of jute companies. However, the move is against the official stand of the current, as well as the previous West Bengal government.
Under the Jute Packing Materials Act, 1987, every year, the industry supplies jute bags for packing foodgrain and sugar. In 2012-13, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) had decided to dilute the norms for packaging sugar and foodgrain in jute bags by 60 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had opposed the CCEA decision, saying the United Progressive Alliance government was forcing millions of jute farmers and workers to commit suicide. Earlier, while her party Trinamool Congress was part of the ruling coalition at the Centre, Banerjee had thwarted attempts to replace jute sacks with plastic bags. The industry had also received support from former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and member of Parliament from Jangipur in Murshidabad, a major jute-growing district. According to estimates by the jute commissioner, the shortfall in the supply of jute bags in January would stand at about 0.39 million bales.