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Saturday, Jun 01, 2002

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Traders halt raw jute supply to Bengal mills

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A NEWLY formed raw jute traders' body has stopped regular supplies of the golden fibre, hampering production in almost a dozen of jute mills of West Bengal during the last fortnight.

Sources in the raw jute circles said members of the West Bengal Jute Balers Association were not allowing the raw jute carrying trucks to reach the jute mills. They allege that the jute mill owners are irregular in their payments.

As a result, production of jute goods has been hampered in at least 12 jute units. Owners of these mills have denied all allegations and have sought the help the West Bengal Government for normalising the raw jute supplies.

It may be noted that the century-old Jute Balers Association (JBA) is the apex body of raw jute traders in eastern India. Members of this organisation collect the orders from the mill owners and then pass it on to the raw jute traders located in the different districts.

``Members of West Bengal Jute Balers Association are mostly district level or mandi level traders, while the members of Jute Balers Association are central brokers. The agitating traders are stopping all trucks carrying raw jute in different check posts. So, the Kolkata-based traders are not getting the raw material for their supplies'', a JBA official told Business Line.

The Indian Jute Mills Association (IJMA) has already sought the intervention of the West Bengal Government. ``We have requested the Government to ensure smooth movement of raw jute carrying trucks on the highways'', an IJMA official said.

He too was unaware of this newly formed balers organisation but accepted that the body has acquired enormous power. ``If anyone stops all raw jute supply to the industry then you have to agree that they are powerful,'' the official said.

It may be also stated that, at present, there is neither any shortage of raw jute or jute goods' orders. However, the raw jute prices are hovering about Rs 1,050-1,100 per quintal for the TD-4 variety, which is still not remunerative for the farmers.

The affected jute mills are mostly located in and around the city and they together employ around 50,000 people. ``The situation is so bad that the mill owners will be forced to close down their units any day,'' sources said.

However, the most intriguing fact is the formation of this raw jute traders' organisation. A section of the raw jute traders felt that JBA has ceased to be an effective platform for airing their views and grievances because large number of jute goods sellers had also become its members. ``This lead to be birth of this new organisation,'' sources added.

Members of this organisation said repeated requests and reminders had been sent to mill owners before stopping the supplies. ``All our pleas fell on deaf ears'', a member said.

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