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LAHORE, Nov 29: Commercial sowing of jute can help Pakistan in saving $100 million annually on its import hence the Pakistan Jute Mills Association (PJMA) had launched an initiative to convince farmers in sowing jute.

Speakers at a seminar “sowing of jute in Pakistan” arranged by the PJMA in collaboration with the Ayub Agriculture Research Institute (AARI) Faisalabad and Punjab Agriculture Department held in Muzaffargarh , said that the country only needed 150,000 acres of land for jute cultivation.

Nevertheless, the government decision to switch over to polypropylene bags from jute had resulted in the closure of five out of 11 mills in the last two years, said a speaker.

“The new initiative should include supply of free seed and guidance from sowing to retting and buy-back assurance to farmers,” they said.

Director Abdus Sattar of Agronomy Research Institute (a sister wing of AARI) stressed the need on ensuring profitability to growers to convince them in switching over to jute cultivation.

He urged the growers to help the government in saving foreign exchange by initiating jute sowing and supporting this industry which was providing employment to over 4,000 people and helping 100,000 families to sustain.

Vice-Chairman of the PJMA Mian Meraj Din assured that the Association would not only buy the whole crop but would also offer better prices to farmers. The association, he said, would extend full support from plantation to marketing of the crop along with the technical assistance growers may need regarding its cultivation.

Agronomist Mukhtar Ahmed of Ayub Agriculture Research Institute (AARI) briefed the growers on the technicalities of jute plantation. Jute cultivation, he said, was suitable in low-lying, irrigated and areas near rivers, and the most suitable time for its fibre was from April 15 to May 31, and for seed multiplication from May 15 to June 15. The crop was easy because of being less labour-intensive since the land needs only two ploughing and less application of fertiliser, pesticides and watering. Sowing is possible both by drill or broadcast method and requires care, lesser than the cotton.

However, growers should pay more attention on weeds he said adding that many African countries consume the leaves of jute which contain iron, calcium, vitamin C&E and many other nutrients.