Shekhar Regmi

Biratnagar, March 21:

Participating experts have underlined the need to encourage farmers towards jute farming in the six terai districts of eastern Nepal at an International Jute Conference, being held from March 21 to 24 in Biratnagar with the aim of re-establishing jute farming in Nepal and give a boost to jute farming techniques. The conference also aims to, with proper promotion of the jute industry, to help Nepal earn foreign currency worth about Rs 2.05 billion each year. Speaking at the conference, jointly organised by the ministry of agriculture and cooperatives, International Jute Study Group, Bangladesh and Nepal Jute Factory Association, participants stressed on the need to attract farmers of the terai area towards jute farming. Ninety persons from Nepal, Bangladesh and India are taking part in the conference.

Hari Krishna Upadhyaya, a member of National Planning Commission, said a special programme should be introduced to revive jute farming. Govinda Prasad Pandey, secretary at the ministry of agriculture and cooperatives, said jute should be reintroduced as a cash crop.

Organised for the first time in Biratnagar, the international conference aims to devise a policy to establish a jute development plan and make use of jute compulsory in packaging material, in order to promote jute crop development and promotion, informed Champa Lal Rathi, chairman of Nepal Jute Association (NJA). The NJA informed that at one time, jute farming was spread over 56,714 hectares of land in the country, which has now been reduced to 11,790 hectares. Annual jute consumption in Nepal today is 87,000 metric tonnes, but the nine domestic jute factories can produce only 17,000 metric tonnes. NJA figure shows that India and other countries are meeting 80 per cent of the jute demand in the country for the last 10 years.

The main reason for the drop in jute farming is attributed to the closure of Raghupati and Biratnagar Jute Mills. At present, the nine jute factories of Nepal are producing traditional Hessian cloths, sacks and ropes. Participants at the conference said farmers had been forced to replace jute with other crops, after they failed to get the right price for their product. At present, about 100,000 farmers are interested in jute farming. But proper encouragement could increase jute production, opined Diwakar Golchha, vice-chairman of FNCCI. The highest production of jute took place during 1979 when production had reached 26,000 metric tonnes. In 1985, jute price had significantly risen, but since then it has been in steady decline, NJA said. T Nanda Kumar, general secretary of Jute Study Group of Bangladesh, D S Pathak of Nepal Agriculture Research Council and Kishor Pradhan, president of Industry Association, Morang also spoke about the present condition of jute in Nepal.