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Smriti Irani urges review of jute packaging rule

Jute mills may close for want of orders
Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani has sought the intervention of her counterpart at the Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution ministry to help stave off the risk of jute mill closures by increasing orders for jute sacks for packaging foodgrains.
“I wish to draw your attention to the fact the jute industry is facing shortage of jute bag orders,” Ms. Irani wrote to Ram Vilas Paswan, in a letter dated April 26, a copy of which has been seen by The Hindu. The issue was flagged earlier by the Textiles Secretary, who had written to his counterpart in the Consumer Affairs ministry saying that the problem had its genesis in the request made by the Consumer Affairs ministry to the Textiles ministry seeking dilution of the Jute Packaging Mandatory Order (under the Jute Packaging Material Act, 1987) in favour of the HDPE/PP bags sector.
Responding to the February 8 request from the Consumer Affairs ministry, the Textiles Ministry had granted a relaxation of 2.58 lakh bales for HPDE/PP bags based on a projection of bag requirement for foodgrains packaging and an anticipated shortage of supply of jute bags. “This relaxation was given to ensure that the food-procurement programme is not affected due to the anticipated shortfall in supply of jute bags till March 31,” the official wrote on April 24. The Secretary also noted that subsequently the total requirement till April was projected at 16.7 lakh bales, of which the order for jute bags was put at 13.68 lakh bales. The jute industry had already met 93.4% of this order.
‘Not in tune’
The Textiles ministry contends that the total bag requirement (including HDPE) was now being put at only 15.6 lakh bales and that unless the order allowing the use of HDPE bags was withdrawn the jute industry could be hit.
“It appears that when we met in February 2018, the supply projection for jute bags was not in tune with ground realities, which led to the dilution of the packaging order,” the Textiles Secretary wrote, urging the Food ministry to rescind its decision allowing HDPE bags supply.
Highlighting this imbroglio, the Jute Commissioner too wrote a letter to the Director Food and Public Distribution on April 19, saying that the Textiles Ministry had agreed to dilute to the extent of 2.58 lakh bales as Secretary (Food) had said there would be a shortage of jute bags to this tune.
“There is no shortage of jute bags and the decision to procure synthetic bags should be reviewed,” the letter said.
JPMA was enacted to protect the interest of raw jute farmers and workers involved in the production of jute goods by compulsory usage of jute bags for supply and distribution of commodities.
Although it started with 100% reservation for foodgrains and sugar and 70% and 50% for cement and fertiliser, over the years this was diluted. This is annually decided by Centre on the basis of the recommendation of Standing Advisory Committee, a statutory body, currently it is nil for fertiliser and cement and 90% for foodgrains and only 20% for sugar.