Another use for jute – make a road

Kolkata, April 19 (Inditop) The $1-billion Indian jute industry, which is marketing a variety of products made with the ‘golden fibre’ ranging from dowdy sacks for cement and sugar to school bags is now set to enter a new field – it will be used to make roads.

Industry officials said that jute will soon be used in making concrete and also in road construction, as part of the producers’ plans to “upgrade, modernise and diversify” the industry.

“Our main objective is to increase the total share of diversified products. Products are classified as diversified on the basis of end-use,” Atri Bhattacharya, secretary of the Jute Manufactures Development Council (JMDC), told IANS.

The official added that the eco-friendly jute geo-textiles that can be used for road construction would give more durability to roads.

For roads, jute is used between the foundation and the upper layer.

Then gradually it decays and forms something called filter-cake, which is very solid and retains the quality of jute. Such technology has been used for 4 km stretch of road Burdwan district, West Bengal.

“Hopefully by the end of April, we will get the certification from Indian Road Congress after which the sky is the limit,” Bhattacharya told IANS.

Bhattacharya, also executive director of the National Centre for Jute Diversification (NCJD), added: “If jute fibres and cut-ends are mixed in cement instead of stone chips it evolves an equally strong but much lighter product called jute fortified concrete.”

Asked when the new product would hit the market, he said it was still at an experimental stage. “But it was tested and found to be really useful”.

The central government has initiated major modernisation measures through its Jute Technology Mission (JTM)-2007.

Under the JTM, there are 19 projects for product development.

Though the initiative was started in 2007, things really started moving this year, Bhattacharya said.

“Jute use is now increasingly becoming diverse. It can be used in furniture, curtains, upholstery, and dashboards and side panels in cars,” he added.

He said Delhi was the biggest single domestic market for jute now. The estimated market size in Delhi is 100,000 jute bags a day, though supply was inadequate.

As demand has outstripped supply, the mandatory jute packaging order by the government has also got diluted by 20 percent this year.

The order mandates that some foodgrains and sugar have to be packed in jute bags.

“Over the last six months, the government has placed the order but the jute mills have not been able to meet the demand, which has resulted in dilution of mandatory packaging order by 20 percent,” Bhattacharya said.

He added that the industry would start “eco-labelling” this year, a certification process whereby the product and the manufacturing process are compliant with international ecological protocols.

“Then we will try to set up a certification institute,” he said.

Talking about branding of jute products, Bhattacharya said the focus will be on two aspects – eco friendliness and diversity of jute. “We will try to increase awareness among masses. A few retail chains have also shown interest in jute.”

For standardisation of jute products, the JMDC has tied up with a network of NGOs that will train jute mill workers to produce standardised items. “Skill development will be done by the NGOs and marketing by the entrepreneurs,” he said.

The JMDC has taken the task of building the supply chain and developing market simultaneously.