3 Februar 2005

Bangladesh: Pulp and paper from an unconventional source

The on going projects to produce pulp and paper from green jute plants need to be completed on highest priority basis

There is a need to move with a real sense of urgency to effectively promote new uses of jute. If this is done – and done successfully – then the misgivings about the closure of the Adamjee Jute Mills (AJM) will not be there. The AJM is now history and earlier some more loss making jute mills in the public sector were identified for closure. But the effects of such moves will be more than offset if projects involving new uses of jute see the light of day at the fastest.

In that case, the new jute based projects will be using jute in large quantities. The demand for raw jute will continue to be high and farmers would likely benefit from the situation by producing greater quantities of raw jute to meet the high demand. A good demand situation, as a rule, leads to producers getting good prices which in turn motivate them to keep production at the higher level. Other intermediaries in the jute trade are also likely to benefit from increased activities in the sector. More significant will be increased earnings from the new jute based products including the vital earnings in foreign currencies. Thus, the government’s lookout should be taking of steps energetically so that new enterprises to make new jute based products can be facilitated to get established at the earliest.

Diversified uses of jute in Bangladesh have long awaited commercial exploitation although it should have been realised long ago that such uses of jute only could restore the glory that it once enjoyed in the country’s export trade. The traditional uses of jute as packing materials declined after the invention of synthetic materials. However, there are jute mills in neighbouring India which are running competitively and earning handsomely foreign currencies by producing these traditional packing materials such as hessian and jute bags. Why Bangladeshi mills are not succeeding in a similar manner needs to be traced and corrective steps have to be taken. According to experts, there are much opportunities for cost cutting and attainment of operational efficiencies in the production processes of public and private sector jute mills of Bangladesh. These steps were neglected. But if these steps are now taken with sincerity, then there will be every reason for the jute mills in the country to experience a rebirth even by producing the traditional jute based materials.

Meanwhile, bright prospects are there for the new jute based products. More than a decade ago it was reported that paper mills in Bangladesh would be using green jute plants to produce pulp and paper. But since then, the momentum in this direction mysteriously died down. Among the raw materials for producing various types of paper, jute is recognised as one of these raw materials of the superior category. It is regrettable that this country spends precious foreign currency in importing huge quantities of paper, including newsprint and other types of quality paper, when it can save the entire amount and improve its balance of payments position by producing and meeting all its demands for paper by utilising jute. More significantly, Bangladesh can also probably turn out to be a major exporter of pulp and paper in the international market by producing the same from green jute plants.

Recently, some newspaper reports said that experimental ventures were being again made to produce pulp and paper from jute plants. The progress in these projects was also emphasised as very encouraging. One would only hope that these projects like the previous ones would not slow down or die down due to the manipulative activities of vested quarters. Government must remain absolutely determined to press ahead with these projects to start producing pulp and paper from jute. Only from this emerging sector, the country may earn several times more the amount in foreign currency and, more importantly, these earnings would reflect value-additions at every step and diversely benefit the economy.

Years ago, jute’s uses in the form of jute plastics, as yarn for cloth making, as cloth for upholsteries in cars and furniture, for matting embankments and a host of its other uses were invented. Significantly, the prospects for greater use of jute products have brightened worldwide. The environmental concern is peaking round the world and manufacturers are increasingly searching for environment friendly and biodegradable products to replace synthetic or plastic products which are now considered as environmentally unsound.

Private entrepreneurs in Bangladesh, on their own, should have worked on these inventions with a view to promoting them or attracting foreign capital to set up joint venture schemes for transforming the inventions – regarding new uses of jute – into commercial realities. But private entrepreneurs in Bangladesh in many cases are found very slow. Therefore, it is imperative for the relevant ministries to work out plans to promote the new jute based products by engaging in a series of result-oriented dialogue with members of the private sector of both home and abroad.

If the use of synthetic fibres could be prohibited worldwide then opportunities would have been created for the use of natural fibres. The automobile industries worldwide include huge enterprises and in the wake of the prohibition on the use of artificial materials much prospects could be created for the use of jute products in this industry. Typically, an automobile uses artificial fibre based products as its parts in thirty-seven places. The same thirty-seven parts could be made from jute if the automobile industry could be convinced about the use of natural fibre. Thus, much demand for these jute based products are there internationally and Bangladesh would be in a leading position to meet this international demand.

Source: Financial Express press release Feb. 02, 2005.

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