The car industry used glass fibre to manufacture the interiors and the glass fibre is not recyclable or biodegradable. So in 1994, the search for a better alternative began and Jute appeared as the winner.
According to Mushtaq Hussain, managing director of Golden Fibres Trade Centre, a leading jute exporter, the global car industry needs about 100,000 tonnes of jute a year, of which 12,000 tonnes come from Bangladesh.
The high-end car brands like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Audi started taking jute from Bangladesh in early 2000s and Hussain is one of the pioneers in breaking this new export ground.
Earlier, the car industry used glass fibre to manufacture the interiors and the glass fibre is not recyclable or biodegradable. So in 1994, the search for a better alternative began and Jute appeared as the winner.
Hussain, who individually sends more than 6,000 tonnes of jute to car brands for $800 a tonne said, “I was involved in this important research.”
He also said,”Interestingly, Bangladesh supplies almost all the required jute fibres used by the high-end car brands.”
Hussain said, adding that the Bangladeshi jute is much admired for its high fibre quality, “We could have supplied all the jute required by the car industry.”
The reality is that the growth in supply has remained motionless at 5 percent over the last many years. And the government is to blame for the unpredictable jute export policy.
“The government stops the export of jute without any prior notice. As a result, the car manufacturers do not fully rely on Bangladeshi jute.”
A few years back, the government foists a ban on the export of raw jute from Bangladesh because of which BMW facing a shortage of natural fibre.
According to Hussain, The German car brand wrote to the Bangladesh government and after many negotiations the export ban was lifted.
The small traders could not supply jute to the car brands directly like Hussain can. Kamrul Islam Bulbul, co-owner of Bulbul Traders, a Narayanganj-based jute exporter, he supplies 400 tonnes of jute a year to car brands through other big exporters.
Kamrul Islam Bulbul said, he purchases jute mainly from Shariatpur and Faridpur in bulk and processes them in his factory as per the car brands' requirements.
He said, the prices of jute vary with the quality of the fibre, he mainly exports jute to Korea and Japan.
Many other small traders supply jute to the car brands like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Renault, Mitsubishi, Volvo, Audi, Daimler Chrysler and Ford.
In a keynote presentation at the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Rashedul Karim Munna, managing director of Creation Private, said, “The use of the natural jute fibre from Bangladesh by global car brands helped in diversification of jute products.”
He said, as a result, Bangladesh has the potential to export jute and jute goods worth $5 billion to $7 billion annually in the next seven years.