Agri Business

Labour Ministry orders Bengal jute mills to extend lockdown

Shobha Roy Kolkata | Updated on April 06, 2020

Move will hit foodgrain procurement process

The Labour Ministry in West Bengal has instructed all jute mills in the State to extend the lockdown notice until further orders.

The Ministry of Food and Public Distribution had recently written to the State government urging it to direct the jute mills to start operations to meet the increased demand for jute bales.

It is to be noted that as many as 60 jute mills in the State have shut down their operations since March 23 following the lockdown orders issued in the wake of the outbreak of Covid-19.

The Indian Jute Mills’ Association (IJMA) had urged the State government to exempt jute mills, which are engaged in manufacturing jute sacks, considered to be an essential commodity, from the lockdown and be allowed to resume production. The Food Corporation of India and the State procurement agencies would require jute bags in view of the arrival of foodgrains for RMS 2020-21 (Rabi Marketing Season). “The Labour Minister has asked us to extend the lockdown (at jute mills) until further notice. No resolution was arrived at at today’s meeting. There is likely to be another round of discussion in the next few days,” Raghav Gupta, Chairman, IJMA, told BusinessLine.

Non-availability of packing material could derail the foodgrain procurement process and could create law and order problem in various States, IJMA had said in its letter to the State government.

Apart from resuming production, IJMA had also urged for resumption of allied activities and transport of raw jute, jute textiles, jute batching oil and ancillary stores and spares.

Huge demand

According to official estimates, close to 6.1 lakh bales are yet to be manufactured due to inadequate capacities, which have been further accentuated by non-functional mills. There is also likely to be an additional demand for around 0.40 lakh bales.

Keeping this in view, the Ministry of Food and Public Distribution had requested for relaxation for use of 4.26 lakh bales. However, it has not been granted so far, sources said.

“Though the Ministry of Textiles has granted relaxation for 1.80 lakh bales in view of the lockdown, this may not be sufficient keeping in view the backlog as well as additional demand from some State Procurement Agencies and FCI,” an industry insider said.

It is estimated that close to 2 lakh workers produced nearly 3,500 tonnes of jute products a day before the lockdown was announced.

Published on April 06, 2020

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