Farmers from the western Indian state suffered huge losses in the previous Rabi crop season when wheat, of which India is the second largest grower, could not be sold in time due a short supply of gunny bags, said Ratan Singh Randhawa, who heads the Jamhuri Kisan Union.
“Paddy will be harvested in two months. The government should have made arrangements (for jute bags) by now. INR30,000 crore worth of loans are riding on farmers’ heads. Delays will burden them further.
“Three farmers committed suicide in the last two months,” Randhawa said.
Gunny bags made from jute, a majority of which are manfactured in the eastern West Bengal state, help foodgrains breathe and prevent them from rotting; grains rot faster in plastic sacks, said Shyam Behari Mishra, vice president, Federation of All India Rice Millers.
India’s raw jute output has been stagnant at some 11 million bales a year for the last five years, according to a Business Standard article. One bale is 170kg.
This is because farmers in West Bengal, the largest producer of raw jute in the country, are moving to paddy and tea given that they are more profitable to grow, Mishra said. India raised the minimum support price of paddy by 16 percent to an all-time high of INR1,250 for one quintal for the 2012-2013 agriculture season, according to a Bloomberg report.
The Indian Jute Mills Association does not foresee a short supply of gunny bags this season. The crisis-situation, in May, was dealt with, said Manish Poddar, the chairman of the Indian Jute Mills Association.
"The state has been requesting the union government to supply new jute bags to Punjab by September 30. However, the government of India has intimated that only 5.9 lakh jute bales can be supplied to Punjab, leaving a gap of 1.81 lakh bales," Punjab’s food and civil supplies minister Adesh Pratap Singh Kairon was quoted as saying in an IANS report.