SALEPUR: Rise in the market price of jute has brought in a new ray of hope for at least 5,000 cultivators in Salepur. Shortage in supply due to low production in the last 16 years has pushed up the demand for this natural fibre.
Today, as the demand had increased, more farmers are returning to this traditional crop.
Jute was primarily grown on a large scale in Nischnitakoili, Mahanga, Salepur and Tangi-Choudwar blocks under Salepur. The fibre was grown in at least 20,000 hectares of land till 1990 by 15,000 farmers of three blocks. In the 90s, there was a steady decline in jute cultivation due to sluggish demand.
When polythene bags came into widespread use, the demand for jute declined. For many years from 1993, not even a kg of jute was purchased by the Departmental Purchase Centres (DPC) of Jute Corporation of India in the coastal districts of Cuttack, Kendrapara, Jajpur and Bhadrak. Subsequently, thousands of farmers shifted from jute to paddy cultivation.
Five sub-DPCs at Tarapur, Chandbali, Mahanga, Baliapal and Sailong that were also set up to procure jute have been shut down since long. Around 20 jute marketing and cooperative societies, which were operating in different coastal districts, have been shut down.
The scenario has changed today. In the current financial year (2015-16), 805 hectares (ha) of land has been put under jute cultivation here. This includes 235 ha in Nischintakoili, 480 ha in Mahanga, 50 ha in Salepur and 40 ha in Tangi-Choudwar block against a target of 1,185 ha fixed by the Agriculture department. After the jute plants are harvested, they are immersed in water bodies and left to rot. Once they become soft, the jute is separated by hand and dried. Later, the fibre is sent to mills for processing.
This season, the Government has increased the minimum support price of jute to Rs 2,700 per quintal from Rs 2,200 last season. Such is the demand of the fibre that traders of Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal are purchasing jute from farmers of Cuttack, Kendrapara, Jajpur and Bhadrak at Rs 3,000 per quintal.
With market price of jute increasing, more farmers are expressing interest in cultivating it this year.