Kolkata, March 2 (IANS) The Indian jute industry, which has been facing several challenges such as rampant lockouts, dwindling financial conditions of mills and low productivity, gained some fillip from this year's union budget with the proposed total exemption of a few products from excise duty.
Industry sources, however, said if Finance Minister P. Chidambaram had decided to also exempt products made of jute non-wovens, it would have brought more smiles to the faces of country's jute manufacturers and exporters.
Chidambaram, who presented his eighth budget for his ministry Thursday, proposed to totally exempt handmade carpets and textile floor coverings of coir or jute from excise duty.
"These are diversified products, which have good markets overseas. So we are happy with the excise duty exemption on carpets and floor coverings," D.C. Baheti, executive director of Gloster Limited, a leading manufacturer and exporter of jute products, told IANS.
Baheti said the duty exemption would give a boost to the exports of those diversified items.
"We had also demand the central government to exempt diversified products made of non-woven jute. Items like non-woven jute made carpets, floor coverings and bags are of high demands in the international markets. So a duty exemption on these products would have been great," he contended.
Currently, excise duty levied on products made of jute non-woven is as high as 12 percent.
Jute manufacturers said the central government should consider exempt items of non-woven jute from excise duty in the next year's budget to give a boost to exports, providing a much necessary push to the sector, which has been in the doldrums.
Sanjay Kajaria, former chairman of the Indian Jute Mills Association (IJMA), observed that this year's budget would have a minimum impact on the jute industry as items like handmade carpets and textile floor coverings of jute constituted a very small portion of the sector's entire gamut of products.
"This budget will have a minimum impact on jute industry. Other jute products had earlier been exempted from taxes. Carpets and floor coverings constitute only 0.5 percent of our total products," he said.
India's ailing jute sector has for a long time been facing hardships such as lockout at mills, indefinite strikes and stiff competitions from synthetic substitutes. Hard competition from neighbouring Bangladesh also adds to the sector's worry.