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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 23 April 2024

Plastic blow to Bengal jute industry

The state's food and supplies department has written back to the Centre informing it about the state government’s decision to ensure maximum use of jute bags

Arkamoy Datta Majumdar Calcutta Published 07.08.21, 01:52 AM
“The Centre had asked us to consider using plastic bags for packing 35 per cent of wheat produced in the state. However, that will serve as a major blow to the jute sector and hence, we have written to the Union government saying we will try to use as many jute bags as possible,” said Rathin Ghosh, the state’s minister for food and supplies.

“The Centre had asked us to consider using plastic bags for packing 35 per cent of wheat produced in the state. However, that will serve as a major blow to the jute sector and hence, we have written to the Union government saying we will try to use as many jute bags as possible,” said Rathin Ghosh, the state’s minister for food and supplies. Shutterstock

The Centre has written to states to consider expanding the use of plastic for packaging of wheat grains and the move has upset the Bengal government.

Bengal’s food and supplies department has written back to the Centre informing it about the state government’s decision to ensure maximum use of jute bags, which is customarily used for packing food grains, to serve the interest of the jute industry.

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“The Centre had asked us to consider using plastic bags for packing 35 per cent of wheat produced in the state. However, that will serve as a major blow to the jute sector and hence, we have written to the Union government saying we will try to use as many jute bags as possible,” said Rathin Ghosh, the state’s minister for food and supplies.

Ghosh added that talks had been initiated at the secretarial level to reach an amicable solution to the problem.

According to the Jute Packaging Material Act of 1987, all food grains produced in India have to be mandatorily packed in jute bags. Under unusual circumstances, the central government can allow the use of plastic bags as replacement up to 30 per cent of the total food grains.

Technically, the fate of the 60-odd jute mills in Bengal, which employ three lakh people directly and 40 lakh indirectly, including jute farmers, depends on the JPMA.

Sources in the jute industry said the Centre wanted 45 per cent of wheat produced in the country to be packaged in plastic bags. “If the plastic packaging is of 45 per cent, the sector will incur losses close to Rs 7,000 crore,” said one of the sources.

According to sources in the state government, chief minister Mamata Banerjee has expressed her discontent with the Centre’s decision and taken up the issue with her Punjab counterpart Captain Amarinder Singh. Punjab is one of the largest producers of wheat in the country.

Punjab, along with Haryana and Chhattisgarh, is also the biggest purchaser of jute bags.

Officers in the jute commissioner’s office, however, said the repeated failure of jute manufacturers to supply the required number of jute bags had forced the Centre to consider a dilution. While the total requirement of jute bags for the ongoing Kharif season — June to November — was 24 lakh bales in India, jute mill owners have committed to supplying only 15 lakh bales.

“If there is already a backlog during the Kharif season, how can we expect that they will be able to supply the required number of bags in the next season?” a source at the jute commissioner’s office asked.

The next lot of wheat crop will be harvested in March next year. However, the purchase of bags shall start in November.

Sources in the Indian Jute Mills Association, which had already written to Mamata seeking help, said the Centre planned to scrap the JPMA completely and allowing the use of plastic to pack wheat was a step in that direction.

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