The Centre mulls packaging of wheat entirely in plastic bags instead of jute bags

The Centre is pondering whether to pack wheat entirely in plastic bags instead of jute bags. The Cabinet Secretariat had called for a meeting of committee of secretaries recently to discuss the issue of exempting wheat from the provisions of the Jute Materials (Compulsory Use in Packing Commodities) Act, 1987, as per Hindu Business Line. The Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution recently complained that an exemption in the rule for packaging food grains be made in view shortage of supply and price manipulation of jute bags. The Ministry of Textiles as well as the Ministry of Food had allowed partial (10%) exemption in November and December last year for packing wheat in plastic bags in Punjab and Madhya Pradesh. From January to April, the two Union Ministries extended the exemption further to 30%. According to sources, until now, jute mills have managed to supply the quantum of bags required for packing wheat to Food Corporation of India and the State procurement agencies in Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh for the 2016-17 rabi crop season. However, the Centre apprehends that going forward jute industry will not be able to supply bags adequately in the remaining months at the prescribed price. The Food Ministry in a recent note said for “the current rabi (2016-17) season, the jute industry expressed its ability to supply 2 lakh bales a month against the total requirement of 13.43 lakh bales packing materials during December 2015 to April 2016.” Considering this, the Centre has used 4.96 lakh bales of HDPE/PP bags. For packing wheat, the country needed 14.1 lakh bales of jute bags annually. Meanwhile, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has given jute industry an ‘orange category’ status indicating the second highest level of polluters, while plastics industry has been accorded a ‘green category’, second most clean status.
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