2 months ago

Letting jute goods survive in style

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Despite being the producer of one of the finest varieties of jute, Bangladesh has yet to enjoy a handsome share of jute exports. Similar is the case with jute products. To speak forthrightly, the export of Bangladesh jute and the goods made of the fibre experienced a decline in 2022. Export of jute and jute goods declined by 11 per cent to $406.60 million during July-November 2022. The export of raw jute, jute yarn, twine and jute carpet etc experienced a downward trend in the period. Once it was indisputably recognised that fancy items made of jute had been set to conquer the overseas markets. It was because myriad types of Bangladesh-made products had to pass muster with many a local test. They passed the tests in style by excelling the rival countries as they showcased similar items.

True, the Bangladesh jute products couldn't retain their position of glory. But thanks to their unique style of artistry and uniqueness they were able to leave a lasting imprint on the minds of their connoisseurs. The fact is the export market, be it one of jute or jute products or of frozen fish, is dispassionate. One has to carve out one's place in the sector, and put in their best of efforts to retain it. It's time Bangladesh kept this plain truth in mind if it wants to survive in the 21st century jute export market. While opening a 5-day multipurpose jute goods exhibition at the city's Shilpakala Academy on March 12, Textiles and Jute Minister Golam Dastagir Gazi underscored, quite naturally, the holding of jute goods fair regularly to expand their market at home and abroad. He emphasised more exhibitions would help expand markets of diversified jute products, stressing the imperative of exploring new destinations for exporting jute goods.

The older-generation jute goods failed to attract clients at home and abroad thanks to their coarseness and lack of professional finishing. Taking this opportunity, the rival countries continued to march ahead of Bangladesh. Amazingly, Bangladesh has no dearth of craftsmen excelling in making fanciful jute products. Apart from fancy goods, home decoration items, carpets, door mats, bags, toys, and, even shoes etc have already proved their market strength in both traditional and non-traditional overseas markets. A challenge the Bangladesh products face at these points of export is aggressive marketing of the rival countries. In the present-day world, Bangladesh has to make its way through a number of other jute-producing countries like India and those in the Far East and Southeast Asia.

The world's leading jute-growing countries at present are India, Bangladesh, China and Thailand. India is the present world's largest producer of raw jute and jute goods. It contributes to over 50 per cent and 40 per cent respectively of global production. Decades ago this enviable position used to be held by Bangladesh.

The drop in jute cultivation in the country occurred for many reasons. The decline in profits from jute growing compared to other crops like rice, its abrupt fall in global jute market, climate adversities are some of the reasons. Moreover, the multi-pronged aggression of plastic and polythene products, like sacks, bags etc also played a vital role in the cornering of jute in the world market of fibre products. Thanks to their so-called strength, user-friendliness and other benefits the synthetic sacks eventually began to be preferred by clients to gunny bags and the other products made of jute and hessian. In spite of the temporary fall in the biodegradable fibres like jute, in course of time the goods made of natural fibres staged a comeback in a remarkably big way. But the growers and traders of jute had to remain prepared to say goodbye to the golden days of jute and other fibres like hemp.

Thanks to the shops being filled with synthetic, meaning non-biodegradable, products they are not likely to go back to the days of natural fibre. Attempts to innovate superbly finished fibre products may go on. Fabrics or hard and flexible jute-made objects may flood the market. But they are feared to suffer from limitations. Green activists are expected to step into this dilemmatic situation. They have long been waging a global battle against plastic and non-biodegradable materials. To their woes, the campaigns in favour of jute and similar substances proved mostly ineffective. Upon seeing a fall in the demand of products made of natural fibre, incentives being given to jute cultivators witnessed periodical cuts. It has prompted many jute-growers in poorer coutries to turn to profitable crops.

 In reality, lobbyists of plastic product industries are formidably stronger than the green platforms. In spite of these depressing developments, the activists do not leave the scene. Many believe it is the assertive role of the green activists advocating the use of jute which plays a strong role in the survival of jute in the industries. The jute fibre may not be around in the distant future in the face of onslaughts coming from the synthetic objects; but their complete disappearance may take a long time. Jute and other natural fibres are expected to stay on; because stronger pro-jute camps may emerge upon detecting newer hazards in widespread plastic use.

Many people belonging to the platform of the 'brave new world' dream of a time without the natural fibres. They are highly optimistic about the invention of synthetic fibres which might emerge biodegradable sometime in the future. But there are also the pragmatic segments of people, who dismiss these high dreams as mere fantasies. In the meantime, the genuine race to innovate superfine natural fabric from jute to manufacture user-friendly products may not see a break.


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