Country relies less on jute as export earner

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 March, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 March, 1996, 12:00am

Bangladesh's economic dependence on jute has declined dramatically because competition from synthetic fibre substitutes has undermined the importance of the raw material.

Jute has historically earned the bulk of Bangladesh's export receipts. Only 20 years ago, raw jute and jute products accounted for 90 per cent of the country's total earnings, making Bangladesh the world's biggest jute producer.

But jute exports have steadily waned and last year they represented only 30 per cent of total exports.

While the garment industry has now become the major earner, fishing is also becoming an increasingly important earner, with shrimp sales to Hong Kong and elsewhere in the region booming.

Although small, the industrial sector now contributes significantly to the nation's overall export receipts. 'Great potential as well as challenge lies ahead for our leather sector, although it has to be totally modernised,' said Syed Noor Hossain, director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

'We should aim to export only finished leather goods and eventually target the high end of the market.

'Similar opportunities must be explored for ceramic products, electronic goods and computer software.

'And there is enormous scope for expanding the market for frozen fish, particularly shrimps, by adopting a scientific and efficient system of production.' He said the only way to keep the jute industry alive would be to find high end-use through the introduction of new products. Traditionally used for sacking, alternative uses for jute include paper pulp and artificial silk.