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Jute retting through ponds for lack of rain

Sources said that despite bumper jute production this year, the retting process of plants has been held back largely owing to the lack of rainfall
Cut jute plants left on a field in Nadia.
Cut jute plants left on a field in Nadia.
Debasish Mukherjee

Subhasish Chaudhuri   |   Calcutta   |   Published 15.07.22, 01:52 AM

Poor rainfall this monsoon has prompted the state government to issue an advisory to jute farmers to dig up small ponds on their land and arrange water for retting jute.

Retting of jute is a kind of fermentation process to separate fibre from the non-fibrous woody stem. Water is needed in this process.

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The state agricultural department has directed the district units to convey the advisory so that farmers don’t waste time expecting rain for retting since the supply of jute fibre to the mills has already been  hit.

Sources in the state agricultural department said that despite bumper jute production this year, the retting process of plants has been held back largely owing to the lack of rainfall that normally fills up ponds, canals and water bodies where plants are decomposed to extract the golden fibre.

Maharaj Bairagi, a jute farmer in Nadia, said: “We are facing an unusual situation this year. Jute has matured, but there is no way for retting it and I left the plants in the field expecting rainfall. But if this rain-deficit situation continues, the entire production will be damaged leading to a huge financial loss.”.

According to an estimate, only around 5 per cent of the jute produced was put for retting so far. Most farmers have yet to take the plants from fields for retting amid lack of rainwater. This has created a shortfall in supply leading to a hike in the price of raw jute by around Rs 300, pushing the price of a quintal of jute to Rs 6,500, a jute mill owner in Naihati said.

Weather department reports cite high jute-producing districts Murshidabad recorded 67 per cent rainfall from July 1 to 10, Nadia 61 per cent, North 24-Parganas 52 per cent and Hooghly 32 per cent. Farmers in these districts either haven’t reaped the mature plants from fields or have abandoned them in the scarcity of rainfall.

As an immediate alternative, farmers in jute producing districts located in south Bengal have been asked to dig small pond-type ditches of at least 40ft x 30ft size with a depth of 4 feet, place a tarpaulin sheet on the dug-up space before filling it with water for retting jute plants.

To complete speedy retting of jute, the state government has advised using Crijaf Sona, a bacterium. “The bacterium will be supplied free of cost,” an official said.” It will cut down fermentation time.”

A senior official of the state agriculture department in Calcutta said, “Our aim is to minimize the delay in supply and to ensure that farmers suffer no financial loss. If the alternative retting is properly managed, we are hopeful that jute will begin to reach mills by the end of July.”

Deputy director of agriculture (administration), Nadia, Dipankar Saha told The Telegraph: “We have told farmers to dig up temporary ponds. The block agricultural development officers have been directed to help them at the grassroots.”

Former central committee member of Krishi Jami Jeevan Jibika Raksha Committee Manoj Chakraborty demanded financial support for jute farmers from the Centre and state in this unusual situation.



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