Districts in Focus
Jute goods win back shine
A rise in demand for jute products, mainly handicraft goods, has made small enterprises of the north enthusiastic and hopeful to go ahead despite setbacks.
At least 150 enterprises in Rangpur division are now producing jute goods such as mats, travel bags, vanity bags, wallets, sandals, pen-stands, wall mats, curtains and various kinds of showpieces, as per the data of various commercial banks and Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC).
Some of them have opened showrooms at the district and divisional headquarters to display and sell their products. Majority of the enterprises produce jute goods at their own factories and supply them to Dhaka and other parts around the country.
Some enterprises are served by homemade jute goods of their contracted craftsmen.
“Though marginal, we are running our business profitably,” said Masuduzzaman Tuheen, director of Begum Rokeya Craft at Payerabandh under Mithapukur upazila in Rangpur.
The jute goods’ demand has risen in the country for several reasons, Tuheen said. First of all, the craftsmen can procure jute as raw materials for jute goods easily as it grows in abundance in the region, he said.
Tuheen added, information technology, mainly the internet, has opened up many opportunities for them to get elegant designs from various handicraft sites. “We can produce very fashionable jute goods now but that was not possible in the past. It is because of our access to the internet in the rural areas.”
“We download catalogues of jute goods from international websites, choose designs freely from them and produce various goods of choice.”
“The craft workers made this possible as they are much skilled now,” said Zamal Uddin, a BSCIC engineer.
A number of government and non-government organisations, including Bangladesh Rural Development Board (BRDB), BSCIC, Jute Diversification Promotion Centre (JDPC), Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation, RDRS Bangladesh and CARE Bangladesh, have been organising trainings for the craftsmen on producing jute goods for years.
About 25,000 female workers in five northern districts have so far been trained up in making and dealing in various jute goods.
JDPC has been trying to establish linkages with marketing. The centre was set up in 2002 in Rangpur to promote jute products.
“We are acting as a bridge between the commercial buyers and enterprisers to share business information,” said Saher Hossain, regional marketing officer of JDPC.
Tuheen said many of the famous handicraft companies in Dhaka purchase jute products from them. But they sell the products with their own trade name in their company showrooms in the capital, he added.
When asked, Tuheen declined to disclose the names of such companies as the buyers requested them not to do so. He said some enterprises of the north display and sell their jute goods at different fairs across the country.
Anwar Hossain, proprietor of Beauty Satranji Factory at Mongla Kutti village under Pirgachha upazila in Rangpur, said he took part in almost all the handicraft fairs and exhibitions across the country.
“I took part in the Baishakhi Fair at Bangla Academy in Dhaka that concluded yesterday. I sold satranji (jute made multi-coloured mats) worth of about Tk 2 lakh. Usually I travel throughout the country and sell jute products,” Anwar said.
“Fifty craftsmen are working in my factory who had previously taken part in trainings at JDPC in Rangpur,” said Mosharraf Hossain, director of Sonar Bangla Handicraft in Rangpur.
Each of them earns around Tk 7,000 to Tk 8,000 a month by producing jute goods, Hossain added.
Hossain said Bangladeshi jute goods have its demand not only in the domestic markets but also in foreign markets. He said he had got an order to supply jute bags for HP laptops in China. He took part in the bid through internet and got the order.
Unicol Solution, a buying house in Dhaka, purchases jute-made satranji, mobile bags, vanity bags, and shopping bags from him for a Japanese buyer, he added.
Hossain said he has a showroom in Rangpur and he plans to establish another soon.