Siyam Hoque

2020-05-10 12:02:40 BdST

Jute joy amid COVID-19 cloud over BD exports


In the dark and unforgiving coronavirus cloud hanging over Bangladesh's foreign income, jute exports have grown 14 per cent year-on-year to $791.3 million in the July-April period of the current fiscal year, 

It has beaten the target by 17 per cent when export earnings from every other major sector have slumped due to the coronavirus crisis.

This is the first time jute, once called the golden fibre for both its shiny golden colour and economic benefits, has toppled leather as the second-best exporting sector behind readymade garments.

The country’s total export earnings in the 10 months were worth nearly $29.5 billion, more than 21 per cent shy of the target and 13 per cent less than the amount earned in the same period last fiscal year.

Apparel exports dropped by 14 per cent year-on-year to $24.48 billion while leather exports fell by 16.26 per cent to $700 million.

M Saajjad Hussain Sohel, the chairman of Bangladesh Jute Goods Exporters' Association, or BJGEA, however, says that the money from jute export increased due to a rise in prices in the global market, but the volume has not increased much.

“But we are hopeful that jute will finally bring us good news,” he added.

He noted that the coronavirus pandemic has also hit the sector hard. Export growth dropped to 17 per cent in April from 23 per cent in March due to the lockdown.

The BJGEA chief believes the more people concern themselves with the environment, the better it is for the jute sector. Countries around the world are scrapping polythene bags and the demand for jute sacks is high to pack food grains.

“The demand will rise further. We will be able to bring back the glory of the golden fibre if we take care of the sector,” he said.

The exporters are even selling raw jute to India rather than to the local mills as the price has increased in the international market, he said. “But it’s bad for our farmers because they are not getting the share of the profit,” Sohel said.

He also alleged traders were not following the law that makes it mandatory to use jute sacks to pack paddy, rice, wheat, corn, fertiliser, sugar, onion, ginger, garlic, pulses, potato, flour, chili, turmeric, coriander seeds and husks of rice and wheat.

The government has 22 jute mills while around 200 others are run privately.

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