Reviving jute’s lost lustre: A Swedish gesture

Md. Abdullah Al Hasan | Published: April 27, 2018 22:13:24


Christina Östergren (fouth from right), her son Gabriel Östergren (extreme left), Ibrahim Khalil on Christina's left and Md Abdullah Al Hasan on extreme right seen with others during Christina's visit to AJAD office at Mohammadpur in the city.

Health-conscious people across the world are avoiding the use of harmful polythene and other synthetic materials in their daily lives. This change is creating a good demand for jute and jute goods. To seize this opportunity entrepreneurs in Bangladesh are investing in jute and jute products to regain its lost glory. Jute is one of the largest natural fibres, only second to cotton. The technical properties of jute fibre contain many useful characteristics that probably make it the most sustainable alternative in many areas of usage.

In recent times many foreigners and foreign companies are visiting Bangladesh with a mission to work together with the local people having a liking for jute fibres. Among them, Christina Östergren, CEO/Innovation Designer, Ambassador of Sweden-Bangladesh Business Council & Business Area Construction of Juteborg AB, is one of the crazy jute lovers who is serious about promoting jute goods around the world. Her company Juteborg AB is an innovative, entrepreneurial and development partner of high-tech-based jute products and innovative design services combining automotive/transportation, construction/interior, textile/fashion and packaging industries.

 The company was founded in 2013 by Christina Östergren and Else-Marie Malmek with the aim of transforming their construction and automotive business as more sustainable ones. They believe that diversity drives innovation. She is now a known figure in Bangladesh for her jute-related work. During her visit to Bangladesh in April,

Christina Östergren visited a multipurpose project of AJAD (First time in Bangladesh it is equipped with Display & Sales Centre, Design Studio, Research & Development, Raw Material Bank, Training & Entrepreneur Incubator and Jute Buddy Cafe together in one place) with her son Gabriel Östergren along with Abir Hossain, Sustainable Business Development Manager of Juteborg AB & Jutelab International (A Bangladeshi who is working with Juteborg AB on jute and jute goods). It was a memorable reunion of some jute-loving souls on April 05 at the AJAD office at Mohammadpur in Dhaka.

It is the outcome of a five-year friendship between this crazy jute enthusiast with Ibrahim Khalil, proprieter of Craftvision & CEO of AJAD, a man who has been working and fighting for maximum usage of jute since 1996. Now, more than 20 entrepreneurs are jointly working under the leadership and supervision of Mr Khalil and he started his new journey with AJAD to promote jute.

In 2013 Christina Östergren came to Bangladesh. She requested one known Bangladeshi to introduce her with a person who is seriously involved in producing and diversifying jute products. That selected Ibrahim Khalil as the right person after a long search. After acquaintance she got the basic idea about jute fibre and diverse jute products from Mr Ibrahim.

During this visit after five years since the first one, Mr Khalil and his team members presented their planning and activities and Christina Östergren and her son shared their innovations like Jute PP granule, C-jute, Jute non-woven fabric, F2F jute supply chain and eCon at a meeting.

In course of time polythene and other synthetic materials as a substitute for jute increasingly captured the market, the jute industry in general experienced a decline. Many jute and jute goods exporters started exporting other commodities because of low prices of jute products. Jute-related organisations and government bodies were also forced to close, change or downsize their operation.

 In the year of 2009 when the present government took over the responsibility of the state, the prices of raw jute increased and jute farmers got profitable prices. As a result, new and closed jute mills are opened and the jute market has recovered rapidly. Moreover, 40 million people of the country directly or indirectly depend on the jute sector. The government implemented the Mandatory Jute Packaging Act 2010, which was enforced in January 2014, to promote the country's jute sector. Because of this Act, production of raw jute in the country is increasing every year and jute farmers are getting the desired prices also. Initially, the government had selected six agricultural commodities-paddy, rice, wheat, maize, sugar and fertiliser-for jute packaging. Later, however, eleven other commodities - ginger, garlic, onion, potato, fish feed, poultry feed, flour, chillies, pulse, coriander and rice bran - were also brought under the purview of the law.

So far Mr Ibrahim provided training to 350 persons. He taught them how to produce jute goods. He gave them also basic knowledge about designing, costing and marketing. Among trainees, about 30 per cent were women. This is a very good sign that even women are coming forward to learn the process of producing jute products. One can start the production, if Tk 300,000-400,000 is invested.

One Sattar Hossain took training from Mr Ibrahim. Mr Sattar has established a factory with 35 machines. He has employed about 20 people in his factory. He produces different products of daily needs. His products are also exported to some countries. 

Since 2017 people of Bangladesh are observing March 06 as the National Jute Day. The jute sector is witnessing hopes rekindled as the government has undertaken various initiatives to revive its golden age when jute was called the golden fibre of Bangladesh. The government has taken special measures to produce quality jute and diverse jute products. Around 235 jute goods are innovated to promote the use of the natural fibre in the global market along with traditional jute products like hessian, sacking and CBC. Now jute is cultivated in Bangladesh as an important crop for the export purpose.

Advancement in jute research and development has created an ample opportunity for this natural fibre to be the best viable option for the green alternative in the textile, automotive and construction industries. The rising global environmental awareness has brought the "Golden Fibre" back into the focus once again.

Christina Östergren buys jute goods from Bangladesh. The export volume is increasing day by day. Our jute sector will enter a new phase, if local entrepreneurs can join hands with more foreigners of different countries like Christina Östergren and her son Gabriel.

The writer is Managing Director of AJAD

Email: loveforjute@gmail.com

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