The Department of Food and Public Distribution of the central government is likely to seek reduction in norms governing packaging of food grains in jute bags at the upcoming Standing Advisory Committee (SAC) meet, officials said on Monday.
The reduction will be sought from existing 90 per cent to 75 per cent in general and full exemption from existing 20 per cent in case of sugar, during the 25th meeting of the SAC scheduled on May 4 to recommend norms for packaging for the jute year 2017-18 (July-June).
The Union Ministry of Textiles had sought the inputs from the food department with regard to norms for packaging of commodities in the jute packaging material for the jute year 2017-18, an official said.
“The department seeks immediate implementation of direction of CCEA (Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs) for reduction in compulsory packaging of food grains in jute bags,” the official said.
The discretionary powers to decide dilution from compulsory packaging of food grains in jute bags should rest with the department, he said.
“The recommendations made by CoS (Committees of Secretaries) on packaging of wheat subject should also be considered by SAC to finalise a ten-year road map for automatic gradual exemption in respect of jute bags usage for foodgrains packaging,” the department said in its inputs to the Textiles Ministry.
Jute industry sources, however, said further dilution for jute packaging would be detrimental to the jute industry and jute cultivators. They said supplies should not be a constraint in meeting the demand.
“It is estimated in the recently held Jute Advisory Board (JAB) meeting that there may be a carryover stock of around 26 lakh jute bales at the end of 2016-17 season. Therefore, there is no dearth of raw jute. Production and supply of raw jute during the current season (2016-17) is adequate for maintaining 100 per cent reservation of jute packaging for food grain and sugar,” an industry source said.
According to industry estimates, this year, the production of raw jute will be around 80 lakh bales. With import and carryover stock of another 26 lakh bales “it will be adequate to meet the entire central demand of jute bags and those of sugar mills”.
“Though as per JPMA (Jute Packaging Material Act), the reservation for jute packaging material during the ongoing season has been fixed at 90 per cent for food grains and 20 per cent for sugar bags, yet substantial dilution of 5.37 lakh bales has been undertaken hampering the interests of the working group both at the agricultural field as well as at the industrial sector,” the industry source said.
Jute industry players, however, said that looking into the larger interests of the 4 million farmer families and another 0.4 million of people engaged in the industrial sector, the government should continue 100 per cent reservation for jute packaging material for food grains and sugar in terms of JPMA till improvisation is brought forth in jute cultivation and its productivity.