The department of petrochemicals in the Union government has recommended abolition of the Jute Packaging Material Act (JPMA), which makes storage in this material mandatory for foodgrain and sugar.
It has said the JPMA restricts free competition among various alternatives in bulk packaging and is inconsistent, too, with the recently enacted competition law.
JPMA came into effect in 1987, as a temporary measure to provide some relief to the ailing jute industry. The Act made jute packaging mandatory for foodgrain, sugar, cement & fertilisers. Cement and fertilisers have been taken out of its ambit, but not the other two commodities.
The ministry of chemicals (of which the department is a part) feels mandatory use of jute for packaging of foodgrain and sugar constrains the demand for synthetic sacking and deprive producers of foodgrain and sugar of a cheaper and better packaging material. It has cited several field trials in various parts of the country, establishing the superiority of synthetic sacks over jute sacks.
Every year, based on the representation of the ministry, the JPMA is relaxed to allow a small portion of foodgrain to be packed in polymer. The relaxation allows use of 10-15 per cent of polymer for packaging items.