Saiful planted jute on seven bighas of land this year and harvested about 50 maund or roughly 37 kgs.
“I needed the money so I sold it off around a month ago for Tk 2,600 per maund,” he told bdnews24.com.
“Never before have I got such a high price for jute,” he added, a mixture of surprise and excitement in his voice.
Good quality jute is selling for Tk 3,000 per maund at markets across Bangladesh.
Even the low-quality jute costs now more than Tk 1,500 - the highest price for jute ever seen in Bangladesh.
“The price has hit Tk 3,000,” Saiful said. “But I've no regrets. I'm happy to have sold my stock for Tk 2,600 a maund in these troubled times.”
But the good news is not just limited to the price of jute alone. The exports of jute and jute products have proceeded apace during the pandemic.
Not all are happy, though. Jute mill owners are moaning about the 'abnormally’ high price. They say it is difficult to be competitive in jute products when costs are so high.
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension, jute is farmed on approximately 700,000 to 800,000 hectares of land in Bangladesh. About 8 million bales of unprocessed jute is derived from the cultivation.
Jute is cultivated in every district to some extent. But Faridpur is the largest producer, devoting 84,000 hectares to the crop. Last season, they planted jute on 80,000 hectares.
The district has 19 jute mills, 13 of which are currently in operation.
The south-central district is home to Karim Jute Mill, one of the largest in the country, as well as Partex Group’s Partex Jute Mill.
Hazrat Ali, the deputy director at Department of Agricultural Extension in Faridpur, told bdnews24.com on Monday the jute season had drawn to a close. Those who need money urgently are selling, but many are keeping their stock in hopes of an uptick in price.
Even lower quality jute is selling at Tk 2,500 to Tk 2,600.
“Jute farmers are delighted by the high price this season. Many are coming to us to discuss their plans to plant more jute next season.
The farmers cultivated jute on about 36,016 hectares of land in the Manikganj district this season.
Abdul Quader, deputy director at Manikganj Department of Agricultural Extension, told bdnews24.com that the high price of jute has kept the spirits of farmers high despite the pandemic.
“Everyone was worried they wouldn't get a good price because the state-run jute mills have shut. But in reality it has been the opposite,” he said. “I have never seen such a high price for jute in my lifetime. People are happy when their hard work in the fields pays off.”
Agricultural economist M Asaduzzaman believes the high price of jute is a positive development.
“The market for jute exports has always been good, but we haven't been able to capitalise on it due to the closure of large jute mills like Adamjee and other wrong decisions.”
“But this pandemic period has shown the potential of jute and jute products in the export market. Now all that’s left to see is whether we can take advantage of this opportunity.”
According to the government’s agricultural information service, there are currently four million jute farmers in Bangladesh. The jute sector makes 0.26 percent of Bangladesh’s total GDP and 1.4 percent of the GDP in the agriculture sector.
JUTE MILL OWNERS UNHAPPY
Private jute mill owners say that the high price of jute will prevent Bangladesh from capturing the export market.
Zahid Miah, the chairman of Bangladesh Jute Spinners Association, told bdnews24.com “You can’t even buy jute any more. Everyone is hoarding it in the hopes of selling at higher rates later.”
“Everyone - from farmers to traders - is stocking up on jute. Even imams and teachers from schools and colleges are stockpiling it in the hopes of a payday. I’ve never seen such instability in the jute market.”
“This means our mills are spinning losses. And you can’t keep mills running on losses,” he added.
Private jute mill owners wrote to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sept 18 calling for her to halt imports of raw jute and the implementation of the 2014 stock law.
“We hope for a positive response soon,” Miah said.
JUTE EXPORTS JUMP
According to the export earnings update put out by the Export Promotion Bureau, or EPB, on Sunday, Bangladesh earned $ 307.55 million from jute and jute product exports in the first quarter (July-September) of the current 2020-21 fiscal year.
This is a 39.26 percent jump from the same period in the previous year and 12 percent higher than the target.
The jute sector earned $882.3 million in the previous fiscal year to surpass the $797.6 million earned by the leather industry and became Bangladesh’s second-biggest export sector following the readymade garments industry. It is on track to repeat the feat this fiscal year.
“The demand for jute products has begun to rise amid the COVID-19 pandemic as environmental issues come to the fore. If we can take advantage of this we can increase exports substantially. We may be able to revitalise this traditional industry in this pandemic year.”
But an integrated initiative is necessary to ensure exports will continue to expand, Miah added.
According to the EPB’s statistics on the first three months of the year, export earnings on jute yarn was $210.82 million, an increase of 53.64 percent. Raw jute exports were $41.15 million, a 23.61 percent increase over the same period last year.
Exports of jute sacks, sandals and bags earned $35.19 million, an increase of 38.33 percent. Handmade products made from jute and jute yarn earned $32.92 million, an 18.63 percent increase.
Other jute products earned $20.39 million from exports.
(Additional reporting by bdnews24.com Faridpur Correspondent Sheikh Mofizur Rahman Shipon and Manikganj Correspondent Abdul Momin)