Big brands like Walmart, Carrefour, Marks and Spencer, Tesco and Trader Joe’s, spread across the American, Japanese and Eurozone markets, are leading the clamour for reusable jute bags. Indian Jute Mills Association spokespersons estimate that they are buying up more than Rs 1,000 crore worth of shopping bags annually (the total jute packaging material export, which includes burlap, is now worth Rs 3,700 crore). Around 70 of the 93 jute mills in India operate out of Bengal and the state accounts for 80% of India’s jute bag export trade, say industry representatives.
“Jute as a packaging material is gaining traction globally,” IJMA chairman Raghavendra Gupta said. Industry experts explain that the primary reason is the pushback against the use of non-reusable plastic. “Coffee and cocoa bean producers worldwide now prefer jute over other materials for packaging and the shopping bag market, too, is witnessing a growth globally. All the big global retail players are evincing interest in jute shopping bags,” Gupta added.
The money figures bear out the growth story. India’s jute bag exports in 2016 were worth around Rs 350 crore; by the end of the last financial year (year-ending 2021, the latest figures available), that had almost tripled to Rs 1,000 crore.
The US is by far the largest export market for all Indian jute products but industry biggies believe there is more scope for growth, especially in the shopping bag category. “The life cycle of a jute shopping bag is 600 times that of a plastic bag’s,” Gupta reckons, hoping the pushback against plastic will add to the jute growth story.