One of the most important cash crops of eastern India, Jute is the second most important fibre after cotton in terms of consumption, production, usage, and availability. The jute industry is one of the oldest industries in India that employs more than 3,70,000 workers and over four million farmers. In the course of the industrial revolution, jute was started as a raw material in the fabric industry and until today, the processed jute is used for making strong threads and jute products. Amid the global push to reduce the carbon footprints; the long, soft, shiny phloem fibre is an incredibly sustainable and eco-friendly alternative that can be India’s fabric of the future.
Jute-ICARE (Jute-Improved Cultivation and Advanced Retting Exercise)
With the aim of enhancing the livelihood of Jute Farmers through up-scaling of improved jute production techniques, the scheme was launched in 2015 under National Jute Board (NJB). To support the small and marginal jute growers, the programme provides a package of scientific methods for jute cultivation which include
– Registration of farmers
– Supply of HYV certified jute seeds
– Mechanical interventions like seed drill for line sowing, Nail/Cycle weeders for de-weeding among others.
According to Jute-ICARE, through this scheme, efforts are concentrated towards reducing the costs of Jute growing while improving the productivity and fibre quality for better price realization and value addition.
Under this scheme, since 2015-16, the support has been extended to around 3 lakh farmers and 2,650 MT of Certified jute seeds, 4150 seed drill machines, 4950 nail weeder machines have been distributed. As per the recent report, the ICARE intervention has resulted in an increase in income of farmers by about Rs.10,000 per hectare, productivity by 15% and quality of raw jute by 1 grade.
Other government interventions to support Jute Farming
Jute is one of the fabrics which is affordable, available at the inexhaustible quantity at a comparatively cheaper rate than other fibres in competition. Further, it can easily be blended with other natural and manmade fibres. Hence, a number of initiatives have been taken by the government for providing support to the jute farmers and jute mill workers.
Support to the Jute Growers: The government is committed to ensuring that jute growers receive Minimum Support Price (MSP) whenever the market price falls below MSP. Jute Corporation of India (JCI), a PSU under the Ministry of Textiles, is the nodal agency to undertake support price operations for raw jute directly from the farmers.
Scholarship Scheme for the girl children of the Jute Mill workers: The National Jute Board has been providing scholarships, incentive support to the girl children of the workers of Jute Mills. Since 2014-15, a total of Rs. 18.36 crores have been given to 24,913 girl children under the scheme.
Jute Packaging Material (Compulsory Use in Packing Commodities) Act, 1987: In October 2020, the government decided that 100% food grains and 20% sugar will be mandatorily packaged in jute bags.
Jute Farming: Doubling farmer’s Income
There are several aspects and uses of the tall, hardy grass that shoots up to 2.5 meters. It is the only crop where earnings begin to trickle way before the final harvest. The seeds are planted between April and May and harvested between July and August. The leaves of Jute can be sold in vegetable markets for nearly two months of the four-month jute crop cycle.
The stem of the crop produces the fibre that goes into making jute products, whereas the leaves can be cooked, the inner woody stems can be used to manufacture paper and the roots, which are left in the ground after harvest.
For cultivation, jute requires very little water and fertiliser. It is largely pest-resistant, and its rapid growth spurt ensures that weeds don’t stand a chance. On top of it, the monetary returns on jute are twice that of paddy. An acre of land produces approximately nine quintals of fibre. Apart from sustainability, this wonder crop brings home higher returns compared to most cash and food crops.
With its insignificant coverage of the total cultivated area, it plays a predominant role in the country’s economy by generating employment, earning foreign exchange, solving many of the socio-economic problems, etc. For India, jute could indeed be the fabric of the future and the solution to two big problems: farmer distress and pollution.