jute- polymer product a substitute for corrugated iron sheets
BANGLADESH Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) revealed recently that it has
developed a jute- and polymer-based product that could be a perfect substitute
for corrugated iron sheets -- and with more merit, given its heat and rust-resistant, strong and flexible properties. Dubbed 'Jutin', this could prove
to be a commercial success if initiatives are taken for large scale production,
either as a state-owned or PPP (Public-Private Partnership) project, according
to the BAEC scientist involved in its research and development. It is claimed to
be light-weight, saline-resistant, durable and with much lower thermal
conductivity than the widely used metal sheets for rural housing in Bangladesh.
If the properties of Jutin are as good and safe as BAEC claims, there is no reason why the product should not be preferred and promoted over the
uncomfortable and hazardous CI sheets.
Products like Jutin could mean a new lease of life for the growers of the golden
fibre which has been taking a beating over the past decades on account of weak
government policies, bad management and tough competition from synthetics. With
a little help, and innovations like these, the country's jute farmers, and
others in the sector, might once again feel encouraged to toil for its revival.
Not that they have been idle. A decade after Adamjee Jute Mills was shut down,
when farmers of this versatile plant were literally left in the lurch, some
small scale private entrepreneurs salvaged ten to twenty of the still-usable
looms from the defunct mills and set up business in the north. Since then these
modest mills have been humming, raising the price of raw jute in the region and
giving the growers of Bangladesh's golden fibre the much needed boost.
Jute is indeed an eminently profitable economic resource and both traditional
jute goods and other products have gained from the worldwide fall of synthetics
from grace. Some big investors are now said to be interested in opening shop in
Bangladesh. However, in a poor population dense country, modest enterprises rather than unwieldy, capital intensive ones, should be the norm, for the
cost-benefit yields -- in terms of the human economy and ecology -- are said to
be greater in the former than the latter.
The potential for adding value to jute is immense. Apart from Jutin, there is
paper pulp from green jute, yarn for household linen, upholstery and even clothing, not to forget traditional items like carpets, rugs, twine and sacking.
Exporters of jute goods claim there is no valid reason why the sector should
ever have been sick. International demand for Bangladesh's products has been
found to be greater than the volume the mills could deliver. Jute floor
coverings, for example have won selected markets on account of the fibre's
biodegradable as well as fire-retardant qualities. Yet policy-makers have been
permitting the unimpeded import of synthetic floor coverings, and have also been
taking a number of negative decisions that seemed to be designed to throttle the
sector rather than revamp it. Policy makers ought to think more clearly in this
regard than they have done in the past.
Serious efforts at research and development, such as BAEC's Jutin, which has
much potential, deserve sincere support and commercially successful 'diversified' products, like hand-braided rugs, modeled on the specifications of
guaranteed foreign buyers, also need to be developed further and new markets
tapped. If consumer trends in the developed world are followed, which both India
and China do, many more items could be manufactured, both for poverty alleviation and foreign exchange earnings -- provided manageable,
market-oriented enterprises are put in place to enhance the lives of the primary
producers as well as those at the top.