The prospect of mechanization is giving new hope to the country’s jute industry, experts have said.
The USAID-funded Future Bangladesh Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia- mechanization Extension Activity (CSISA-MEA) has been working in Bogra, Jessore, Faridpur, and Cox’s Bazar since October 2019 to mechanize jute production. Now the authorities are thinking of introducing mechanization in the jute industry in the rest of the country as well.
These facts emerged during a webinar, “Jute Mechanization – The Need and Ways Forward,” organized by CSISA-MEA in collaboration with Practical Action Consulting on Wednesday morning.
CSISA-MEA is being implemented by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) in partnership with iDE and the Georgia Institute of Technology, USA.
The webinar was presided over by Dr. Timothy J Krupnik, the project leader of CSISA-MEA and country representative for CIMMYT in Bangladesh.
Benojir Alam, project director (farm mechanization), Department of Agriculture Extension; Md Moinul Islam, head of credit and SME, Bangladesh Krishi Bank; Dr. Abdul Alim Khan, chief scientific officer, Bangladesh Jute Research Institute; Kazi Abul Kalam, director, Department Agricultural Marketing; Zahangir Alam, head of marketing, Akij Particle Board Ltd; Dr. Faruk Ul Islam and Engineer Uttam Kumar Saha from Practical Action and many others from the public and private sector were present on the panel.
Ansar A Siddiquee, project manager of CSISA-MEA, summarized the panel discussion and delivered the closing remarks on the occasion. More than 40 people joined the webinar.
In response to a question, speakers said they were planning to introduce a large number of Ashkol jute fiber extraction machines in April next year before the next season began.
They estimated that around 7,000 machines were needed to complete jute fiber extraction across the country, and said it would be difficult to procure such a large number.
According to the participants, “It takes three years to launch 200 machines in the five districts of north Bengal. Each and every machine’s price will be from Tk1.5-2.5 lakhs, depending on the features of the machine.”
A single machine can produce as much as 144 laborers do in an eight-hour day, they added.
The representative of Bangladesh Krishi Bank told the webinar that the bank had allocated Tk160 crore for loans to procure agriculture equipment. The loan is available at an interest rate of 8% with a 20% down payment.
The Department of Agriculture Extension has already provided an allocation for power seeders, but jute cutters and harvesters need to be included to ensure large-scale production of jute, according to the speakers.
Some of them said a machine that will be only used for 22-27 days to harvest jute fiber would not be viable, and the machine might be more useful if it could be modified.
Jute industry stakeholders expressed concern that the machines might break the jute stems while threshing the fiber. They called for a solution to the issue.
Four agriculture manufacturing entities are providing marketing and training support to jute farmers and traders on the use of jute extraction machines. Metal Pvt Ltd, Tohura Engineering, Nasim Engineering, and RK Metal Ltd reached out to over 800 farmers and traders and secured sales leads.
Prof Jonathan Colton and his team from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Practical Action are working closely with the four companies to bring innovations to the equipment and machines.