Jute is cultivated at a season when, if not cultivated, most land will remain barren. The tolerance level of jute crop to the harsh monsoon weather is unmatchable and as a result, most farmers cultivate this crop in Bangladesh wherever possible.

Last week I visited some of the prime Jute growing areas of the Faridpur region and as you can see from my photos, COVID-19 couldn’t refrain our farmers from start preparing their jute lands and sowing the seeds. Actually, in some lands, the seedlings are emerging, providing hope to the farmers for this season’s upcoming harvest.

I had the privilege to talk with some of these farmers about their expectations and concerns regarding the jute crop this year. Most are optimistic that the pandemic will pass soon and by the time they will harvest their crop, the markets and the mills will be running at full speed.

There is always that big question mark, IF? What if the pandemic cripples our economy? What if the mills are unable to run due to lack of foreign orders for jute yarn? What will happen then? Who will compensate for their losses? How they will repay the debts they are incurring for the cultivation process? Lots of things and lots of lives are at stake here.

Each of these groups of people are connected to the other. The mills, which primarily purchase the raw jute and transform those into the finished products are one of the vital parts of this group. If the mills cannot run, then the entire chain will collapse as the demand for raw jute will diminish, putting the farmers, workers and all other groups’ income at risk.

In our collaboration with Juteborg Sweden AB, workshops were organized at the factory of Razzaque Jute Industries Ltd. on Farmers to Factory Jute Supply Chain™ (F2F)™ in the month of February and July of 2019. In these workshops farmers were informed and given information on many areas regarding the cultivation of jute, including the use of organic natural fertilizers, using weather reports to mitigate the negative effects of climate change, the concept of crop insurance, cultivating their own jute seeds, and most importantly, creating a direct connection between the jute mills and the jute farmers.

Concepts and lessons discussed in these workshops proving to be really helpful during this crisis period of COVID-19. Farmers are using the connections they created with our jute mills to ensure that the demand for their jute crop will persist for the upcoming jute season. The workshops co-organized by Juteborg Sweden AB and RJIL forged a valuable connection between our jute mills and the jute farmers which has never been done before in this sector.

As a continuation of this revolutionary process, I have continued to visit the farmers on behalf of our collaborative efforts and monitor and collect data on the actual situation from the sites. During this crisis period caused by the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19, our F2F™ effort is providing huge support to our farmers to lessen the adverse effects of the pandemic.

We always boast to the world that farmers are the backbone of our economy. If we really believe in this phrase, we have to do something, something meaningful and sensible to mitigate the situation. We can not just sit around and let this pandemic decide our fate. We have to work, and work hard to safeguard the fates of 50 million people of Bangladesh who depend on the Jute sector. Jute is something that is uniquely ours and we must protect this sector, and F2F™ is giving us a strong platform to carry on our effort seamlessly.

Therefore I urge all who think about the fate and future of Bangladesh to broaden their minds and think about the security and sustainability of the Golden Fibre of Bangladesh, Jute!

Written by Jassim Hossain, (Advisor Razzaque Jute Industries Ltd) Implementation lead of the F2F™ activities in Bangladesh