‘Packaging 90% of foodgrain, 20% of sugar in jute bags to continue’

Kolkata, July 16 (IANS) Ninety per cent of foodgrain and 20 per cent of sugar should be compulsorily be packed in jute bags during 2016-17, the same level as the previous fiscal, a top official said on Saturday, quoting a recommendation of a Ministry of Textiles panel.

“The (ministry’s Standing Advisory Committee has recommended that norms for compulsory packaging of foodgrains and sugar in jute bags will remain the same for the year 2016-17 as it was last year. Ninety per cent of foodgrain and 20 per cent of sugar will be required to be compulsorily packed in jute bags for 2016-17,” Jute Commissioner Subrata Gupta told IANS.

He had attended the SAC meeting held on Friday.

Ahead of the meeting, the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, in its recent report, said: “This provision does not encourage the jute industry to develop and diversify their production line to high-value products to accelerate its growth in the medium to long run. In view of this, the Commission recommends reduction in compulsory packaging to 75 percent in case of foodgrain and total exemption in case of sugar sector.”

Gupta said: “This year, a large (jute) crop is expected and dilution may lead to a drastic fall in raw jute prices. Hence, farmers will be affected. So, as a protective measure, the recommendation was made in the SAC meeting.”

The commission also recommended that the minimum support price (MSP) of raw jute (TDN3 equivalent to TD5 of old grading) be fixed at Rs 3,200 per quintal for the 2016-17 season. This is an increase of 18.5 per cent over the 2015-16 season.

The jute industry, however, raised the issue of dilution before the SAC saying it would be detrimental for the industry as a whole and jute farmers will be affected if the dilution is eventually made.

“This year (2016-17), the industry is likely to experience a bumper crop of around 1.1 million bales and immense fibre liquidity in the market. Hence, there is a need to protect the interests of the farmers by drawing up a scientific pattern of crop consumption and availability to mills. The workers interest can only be protected through a 100 percent safeguarding through the JPMA, 1987 (Jute Packaging Material Act’1987 ) for foodgrain and sugar,” former Chairman of Indian Jute Mills Association Sanjay Kajaria told IANS.

Jute bag consumers have been saying the mills are often not able to meet the requirement targets and it is costlier than alternative packaging bags. A jute bag costs about Rs 57 while a polyethylene bag is available at around Rs 15.

“We have been demanding exemption of sugar from JPMA. Jute bag packaging causes deterioration of quality. Jute bags do not meet BIS standards. Jute bag packaging pushes up the sugar price roughly by 54 paise per kg,” Indian Sugar Mills Association’s Director (Policy) G.K. Thakur told IANS.

The jute Commissioner, however, said the mills have to make efforts to diversify their products and it is the need of the hour to reduce the dependence on government orders. The industry must survive on the market mechanism.

In the meeting, it was also decided that mills that are diversifying would be incentivised, Gupta said.

(Bappaditya Chatterjee can be contacted at bappaditya.c@ians.in)

–IANS

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