| Workers at one of the jute godowns in Dhubri |
Aug. 27: A sudden rise in demand for jute has not translated into healthy profit for Dhubri growers who continue to be cheated by middlemen in the absence of adequate authentic sales outlets.
The district has more than 1.5 lakh farmers but only six jute purchase centres under the Jute Corporation of India — at Dhubri, Gouripur, Kaldoba, Lakhiganj, Abhayapuri and Patiladoh.
More and more farmers are opting for jute as a cash crop but a majority in Chapor, Bilasipara and Golokganj are forced to sell their produce to unscrupulous private jute traders who pay such abysmal rates that it does not even cover the cost of production.
“A few weeks back, a good price was offered by private buyers and we thought that we would not be in need of government support price. But jute traders in Chapor suddenly formed a syndicate and offered an abnormally low price,” said Monisur Ali Khan, a jute grower in Nayeralga village.
Dhubri produces between 4 lakh quintals to 6 lakh quintals of jute and is the second highest grower after Nagaon.
Assam’s jute industry has an annual turnover of well over Rs 120 crore and contributes 15 per cent of the country’s total output (West Bengal accounts for 80 per cent).
Although Assam produces all three varieties of jute, it is well known for the tossa variety, which is the best-known quality produced in the country and is used for manufacturing decorative items and fancy bags.
The current rate of a quintal of jute varies from Rs 1,500 to Rs 1,600 for the tossa variety, which is a good price compared to the government support price of Rs 1,375.
While the purchase centres under Jute Corporation of India offer higher prices than the government support rates, farmers in Chapor, Bilasipara, Golokganj, Bahalpur and Agomoni remain at the mercy of private buyers.
The officer in-charge at the Gouripur Jute Corporation of India purchase centre, Probir Coomer Baruah, said at the beginning of the season last month, jute prices were as high as Rs 2,400 per quintal. But later it fell.
It is being predicted that the prices will fall lower than the government support rates before Puja when the purchase centres will also buy jute for Rs 1,375 per quintal.
While admitting the inconvenience faced by jute growers, Baruah said a jute trading centre was coming up in Bilasipara near Gourang bridge by the National Highway 31 in Dhubri.
“Under the National Jute Technological Mission, two jute trading centres, each costing Rs 1 crore, will be constructed at Bilasipara and Golokganj,” he said.
Beside, a jute rating project envisaged by national jute commissioner D. Gupta will also be introduced in Dhubri.
The National Jute Technological Mission has also taken up a project of jute rating in South Geramari village near Gouripur which will enhance the quality of jute. Farmers would then be able to sell their produce at the higher rates, Barua added.