Jute cultivation may decline by 20 percent this year due to a shortage of seeds.
The Covid-19 pandemic and its resulting lockdown are likely to cause the damage. March-April is the season for sowing jute seeds, but a lockdown in India and Bangladesh to prevent the spread of the coronavirus has hampered the import of seeds.
Though the activities at Benapole land port in Bangladesh are still on, the problem is with the service receivers and the Indian end.
"From customs' point of view, I can say we are open and ready to provide service to clients. But service receivers are not coming to take their goods amid the shutdown," said Dr Md Niamul Islam, additional commissioner of Benapole customs.
According to a report by an Indian newspaper, authorities are not allowing truck drivers and helpers to cross the border as they cannot quarantine themselves when they return.
Around 50 trucks carrying nearly 1,000 tonnes of jute seeds have been waiting at Petrapol in the Indian territory since the lockdown began on March 24 in India.
Bangladesh needs nearly 6,000 tonnes of jute seeds annually. Of the amount, nearly 90 percent comes from India. The Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) provides only about 1,000 tonnes.
"We have no seeds now. Whatever we had has already been given to farmers," said Md Alamgir Mia, general manager (jute seeds) of the BADC.
Plan to compensate the loss
Alamgir said the world is going through a very critical and abnormal time. Activities are stalled and new plans have to come in to compensate the losses.
He said the government wants jute growers to cultivate Aus paddy, given the importance of food grains amid the ongoing uncertainty.
"We want farmers to use every inch of land to produce food," he said.
Supporting the move, a jute exporter said there is no meaning of purchasing rice by selling jute at a time when countries and people will be extra cautious about food.