Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Jute bag prospects in global arena

Md Rashedul Karim Munna
Global consumer demand for eco-friendly products has increased in both developed markets (such as Western Europe, the United States and Australasia) as well as new markets with emerging opportunities (such as the Middle East) mainly because of heightened awareness of the ill effects of environmental pollution and global warming.
Large chain stores are also offering alternate bags made of jute or cotton. This proves there is healthy global demand for these products due to the growing awareness of and demand for eco-friendly and biodegradable products.
Walter H Deubner invented the first packaging bag and by 1915, he was selling over a million shopping bags a year. The lightweight shopping bag that we see today dates back to the 1960s. From the mid-1980s, the use of plastic bags became common. Plastic bags soon replaced paper bags.
However, in May 2003, South Africa set the pace by banning thinner plastic bags as well as imposing levies on the thicker ones. Eritrea, Rwanda and Somalia banned plastic bags in 2005. Tanzania (including Zanzibar) introduced a total ban on the carriers in 2006. Kenya and Uganda in mid-2007 banned thinner plastic bags and imposed levies on thicker ones.
In 2002, Bangladesh imposed an outright ban on all thinner plastic bags in Dhaka after they were found to have choked the drainage system during devastating floods. The measure triggered a revival of the local jute bag industry. In India, Mumbai banned plastic bags in 2000 and the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh made thinner bags illegal in 2003.
Taiwan banned free lightweight plastic bags in March 2003. China, whose consumers use 3 billion plastic bags a day, announced in January 2008 it would ban shops from handing out free plastic bags from June 2008, and make production of ultra-thin carriers illegal. The announcement led to closure of China’s largest plastic bag factory.
In the US, San Francisco became the first city to ban plastic bags from large supermarkets and pharmacies in March 2007. Several months later the rest of California passed laws requiring large supermarkets to take back and recycle plastic bags.
But why opt for jute shopping bags? Jute bags are more robust and durable and these bags are quite cheap compared to cotton fabric of similar weight. Moreover it is a natural plant fibre that is a renewable and sustainable resource. Jute promotional bags work well for concept stores that have products that are earth friendly.
Additionally, jute production supports a huge number of small farming communities. According to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (as quoted from The Financial Express; April 21 2010), “About 30 million people are directly or indirectly dependent on the jute sector as 3.5 million farmers are engaged in growing jute, 0.2 million people are working in jute factories, 0.1 million are engaged in jute trade, and a large number of people provide other related services.” Also, jute plants consume carbon dioxide — the main cause of the greenhouse effect.
It has been estimated that annual world demand for shopping bags is 500 billion pieces. Leading food retailers Tesco, the Co-operative Group, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and the John Lewis-Waitrose partnership are expanding grocery convenience formats. In the UK alone, the grocery market was worth £150.8 billon in 2010, an increase of 3.1 percent from 2009.
By 2014, IGD (a research organisation dedicated to the development of the food and grocery industry) predicts that the Chinese grocery market will be worth about $1.046 trillion at today’s rates, compared to a forecast US market value of $1.024 trillion.
Demand for natural, biodegradable bags will gradually increase as more and more chain shops around the world phase out the use of polythene bags and use bio-friendly natural fibre bags instead. Thus the potential market for jute shopping bags is enormous.
Jute goods manufacturers in Bangladesh export around 100,000 shopping bags a month on average to different countries. They mention that there is scope for more shipments over the coming years as some European countries are set to ban polythene bags. So far, demand has well exceeded estimates.
As per industry estimates, India had exported about 40 million jute bags mainly to Europe in 2008-09 and the number is likely to cross 75 million by 2011-12. It also reported that Sushil Khetan, president of Association of Jute and Handicrafts Entrepreneurs of Eastern India, has said India’s export of jute bags in 2008-09 is estimated at Rs 200 crore, while it was Rs 120 crore in the previous year.
However, there are problems too for the Bangladesh exporters. For instance, jute fibre and ultimately jute fabric prices are not stable and when compared to cotton fabric, the price of the jute fabric is high. This is because of the weight of the fabric, which is heavier than cotton fabric.
Moreover, the supporting processes such as wet process and lamination have not expanded for the jute sector and thus the cost of such processes remain high. Also a lack of adequate and/or skilled workforce hampers the sector.
To solve our problems, technological improvements are a must. If the fabric could be made lighter and softer, customers would feel more comfortable in using these bags and reuse could increase. Up-gradation in additional or supporting processes could make these processes cheaper and thus aid in making the final price of the bag less expensive. Moreover, improving human resources and creating a skilled workforce is essential if this industry is to take advantage of growing global demand.
Assistance should be provided for raw material improvements and cost effectiveness (such as reducing taxes for import of modern machines). The Jute Commission’s preliminary report suggesting that the government “declare the jute sector an ‘agro-based industry’, having provisions of fiscal support with other required facilities as given to other existing agro-sector industries in the country” should be implemented as soon as possible. This will persuade farmers to grow more jute and thus stabilise jute price to some extent. The National Jute Policy should also be finalised soon.
Already due to consumer demand, there is an increasing number of jute bag manufacturers, making it easier and more affordable to make the switch to eco-friendly shopping bags for both international and domestic customers. The future of the jute industry is particularly bright.
Due to its eco-friendly and biodegradable characteristics, it is safe to say it will continue to keep its global presence. We can also safely assume that a thriving jute bag sector will help to employ another 1.5 million people, directly or indirectly, in Bangladesh.
The wide range of jute diversified products, especially jute shopping bags, can bring in much needed foreign exchange particularly at this point of time when the reserve is fast depleting. We can estimate that around Tk 500-700 crore can be earned within the next five years.

(Article originally published on The Daily Star)


The writer is managing director of Creation Private Ltd.

Related News

Social media pressure changing news making

Opinion Afsan Chowdhury THE relentless reality of social media has begun to influence news making at several levels. Three social media elements are making these pressures so strong. (a) It reaches consumers almost instantly and in no way can professional media compete with that. (b) Content creators can mix and offer audio-visuals that cost little ... Read more

Securing water for sustainable urban future

Opinion By AKM Mahmudul Haque WATER, the essence of life, is a precious resource that sustains our planet and its inhabitants. Yet, despite the vastness of our oceans, only a small portion of the water is potable. Recent studies have revealed alarming statistics that approximately 80 per cent of the water supplied in cities and ... Read more

We need to transform social norms for gender equality

World Population Day Views Md Nuruzzaman Khan World Population Day, which has been observed on July 11 every year since 1989, holds significant importance in addressing critical population-related issues. This year, the focus is on gender equality, symbolised by the theme of “Unleashing the power of gender equality: Uplifting the voices of women and girls ... Read more

Quality education for all, but quality schools for few?

Views Mohammad Ehsanul Islam Khan Education empowers and shapes nations. Increased enrollment and reading levels in Bangladesh have also enhanced education access. But the focus on quantity has overtaken the drive for quality education, leaving only a handful with access to top-notch universities. According to Dr John Dewey, “Education is not preparation for life; education ... Read more

Equal education leads to a better society

Opinion Mehreen Chowdhury EDUCATION is known to be strongest when voices and diverse perspectives are heard and shared around the community. It is vital that young people are given the space and safety to express them without feeling ashamed. The idea of special education is governed by the concept that education is for all. It ... Read more

Alarming increase in child marriage

Opinion Zillur Rahaman CHILD marriage is one of the social ills in Bangladesh. It was once an epidemic in Bangladesh. It, however, came under control because of various measures and the supervision of the government in the past decade or so, but has been increasing at an alarming rate since the Covid pandemic, which increased ... Read more

Time to prioritise social justice

Views We have the chance to reshape the world we live in – economically, socially, and environmentally. Gilbert F Houngbo May 1 is widely known as International Labour Day, a day when we celebrate the contribution of workers worldwide. It is a moment for pride, celebration, and hope. After three years of the Covid-19 crisis, ... Read more

More heatwaves are coming our way. Are we prepared?

Views While Bangladesh has a lot of experience in tackling cyclones and floods, we have not taken heat stress into consideration until now. Saleemul Huq The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently completed its sixth assessment report (AR6), with the Synthesis Report coming out in March. The Synthesis Report carries some key messages about ... Read more

Women must be at the forefront of the transition to a low-carbon economy

Opinion Veronica Mendizabal Joffre and Pinky Serafica Can we truly reimagine a path to a low-carbon transition and change the climate narrative? This is hard to envision when we witness the unprecedented damage we are inflicting on the planet. For women, the effects of climate change are already a lived experience. Where environments are damaged ... Read more

Why collaboration is in our collective interest

ViewsRMG NOTESClimate ActionWithout fashion retailers and their suppliers working together, our industry as a whole will continue to see emissions rising. Mostafiz Uddin According to the latest report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world is likely to fail to reach its most ambitious climate target – limiting global warming to ... Read more

Will our universities survive in 25 years?

Views Syed Saad Andaleeb Quality education is the backbone of a wholesome and prosperous society. But finding the “quality” in quality education continues to be elusive in Bangladesh. The “so called” universities (more like community colleges) are rife with social, economic, political and ideological problems that work against building learning organisations. Teachers, the kingpins, don ... Read more

Can teachers be the pivot of change in education?

Views Manzoor Ahmed “No system of education can be better than its teachers” is an aphorism that remains meaningful. The nostalgic and idealised image of the teacher as a scholar, dispensing knowledge and wisdom to the young selflessly, who lives a simple life with little concern for material rewards and who is looked upon by ... Read more

Climate loss and damage are clearly visible in southwest Bangladesh

Views Ashish Barua, Sawkat Chowdhury The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) by Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that the sea level, over the last 120 years, has increased by 0.20 metres, and continues rising fast, caused by thermal expansion, glacier ice loss, ice sheet loss, etc. The sea level ... Read more

How can Dhaka solve its traffic problem?

Views Debra Efroymson If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that “traffic was particularly bad today,” I could have retired already. Over the years, people have hazarded various suggestions as to the cause of the terrible Dhaka traffic and its potential solutions. Causes include: not enough roads for all the cars; poor ... Read more

Celebrating 50 years of global environmental movement

Opinion Saleemul Huq The global environmental movement started in 1972, with the first global environment conference held in Stockholm, Sweden, hosted by then Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme. Among the heads of governments who also attended was the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who famously declared that environment and poverty were two major global issues ... Read more

Saving earth from disasters

Opinion By Md Zillur Rahaman TODAY is World Earth Day. The day is celebrated worldwide each year to show support for the protection of the environment. It was first observed in 1970 and is now held globally by the Earth Day Network. The UN-sponsored conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from June 3 to June 14, ... Read more

Women for women

Opinion Faria Rashid PATRIARCHAL societies like to deceive women into thinking that women cannot get along, work together and stand in support of one another. Given the patriarchal history of society, it has mostly worked to keep women in their places and apart from each other. This is why we hear so much about women ... Read more

CSR and a new order of business

From being seen as mere philanthropy and ‘doing good’, corporate social responsibility is now at the heart of business sustainability and ethical and accountable corporate behaviour Bitopi Das Chowdhury CSR or corporate social responsibility has been a buzz phrase for quite some time now. Not a day goes by without it being mentioned, albeit in ... Read more

Harmful impacts of cartels on consumers

Munshi Abdul Ahad A cartel is an anti-competitive arrangement between two or more competing businesses. Anticompetitive agreements, particularly cartels, harm consumers in urbanised society, as well as in the emerging countries. In adding together, cartelised industrial sectors lack competition which certainly reduces competitiveness in the long run and may have a negative impact on the ... Read more

How to troubleshoot the economy

Sadiq Ahmed Bangladesh is facing serious macroeconomic challenges and I have written a lot explaining them in a series of articles published in The Daily Star and in The Financial Express. In this new article I am going to write specifically about how Bangladesh could address those challenges while also mobilising substantial external financing in ... Read more