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Jute chief wants errant mills on blacklist

Calcutta, June 30: Jute commissioner Subrata Gupta has urged the Centre to blacklist jute mills for five years if they are found to be involved in unfair trade practices.

The commissioner has submitted a report saying several jute mills in Bengal, including Northbrook Jute Co Ltd, were resorting to unfair trade practices like selling illegally imported jute bags from Nepal and Bangladesh as their own product and reusing old materials.

Jute mills under the Indian Jute Mills Association (IJMA) had been accusing the Centre of giving low orders that resulted in stockpiling at Northbrook and other mills. The lack of orders had prompted the Northbrook management to cut shift hours and production, angering workers whose daily wages were affected.

In a note to the 22nd Standing Advisory Committee on Jute, the commissioner said “mills indulging in unfair trade practice such as re-circulation of second-hand bags in the government supply chain, supply of unbranded sacking, etc. may be debarred from government supply for five years”.

The Union food ministry is the biggest buyer of jute bags for packing food grain and sugar through the Food Corporation of India for state food procuring agencies. Bengal’s jute mills survive on the quota that the commissioner distributes in the kharif and rabi seasons to jute mills for supply of bags.

“In 2014-15, the commissioner has recommended 100 per cent use of jute bags for packing food grain as against the previous year’s 90 per cent. However, 50 per cent of the sugar produced in the country would be packed in plastic bags. Last year, the government allowed 80 per cent of sugar produced to be packed in plastic materials,” an industry source said.