The three sons of the late Sheikh Akij Uddin, Bangladesh's top local industrial entrepreneur, are about to usher in a new era in the jute industry. They have continued to invest heavily in the jute industry despite adversity. As a result, the world's largest jute mill is now about to go into commercial production.
The Akij Group is constructing the world's largest jute mill called Akij Jute Mills at Muksudpur Upazila, Gopalganj. The jute mill will have six mills spread over an area of more than 450 bighas. Each mill will have a built-up area of more than 100,000 square feet.
Due to the economic downturn, many businessmen are hesitant to make new investments and they are desperate to invest heavily in the jute industry of Bangladesh. Though many mills, especially the smaller ones, have closed down in the last few years as they could not survive the competition, the Akij group of brothers has been moving ahead in the field.
Akij Jute Mills underwent commissioning on a limited scale last month before its final inauguration. The necessary equipment is being installed to enable commercial production in December.
Sheikh Bashir Uddin, the youngest of the Akij brothers, has invested nearly Tk 150 crore in the sector in the last three years. Now, his elder brother, Sheikh Nasir Uddin, chairman of Akij Group and owner of Akij Jute Mills, has come up with another investment of about Tk 250 crore.
G Murshid Bappi, director of operations of Akij Jute Mills, told the media that the jute mill, with a capacity of 600 tons per day, will be the "largest jute composite textile mill in the world".
He added that our mill is focusing on jute fabric production. In addition, we are aiming to print on these fabrics, which are usually seen on cotton fabrics.
In 2020, Sheikh Bashir Uddin, former Managing Director of Akij Group and founder of Akij Bashir Group, started making major acquisitions in the jute industry. He acquired Janata Jute Mills and Sadat Jute Mills at a total cost of over Tk 70 crore. He also acquired the Partex Jute Mills from the Partex Group for about Tk 5 billion. Not only that, he continues to invest in jute to modernize the mills and diversify the products.
Jute industry sources say that these strategic moves have firmly established Akij Brothers as a major player in the jute industry. About 50% of Bangladesh's total jute production comes from its mills.
Helal Ahmed, COO of Akij Bashir Group, who has 35 years of experience in the jute industry with the Akij Group, said, "After assuming office in June 2020, we invested in increasing the capacity and diversification of our Janata jute mill. Currently, we produce market-leading Janata, Partex, and Sadat jute mills."
In addition to Nasir and Bashir's efforts, their brother Sheikh Afil Uddin has been successfully running the Afil Jute Weaving Mill for many years. His mill is the largest supplier of jute bags, which are used to package the country's rice and potatoes.
Bangladesh produces 110-120 million tons of jute annually, of which 200,000 tons of raw jute is exported directly and another 200,000 tons are used locally. The remaining 700,000 tons are used in the manufacture of various products, especially yarn, which is exported to the world market.
Bangladesh exported jute and jute products worth $912 million in FY 2022-23, down 19% from $1.12 billion in FY 2022. Jute exports have declined due to the global recession. Bangladesh's jute yarn exports to Turkey, its largest market, have declined from 200,000 tons to around 100,000 tons at present. Exports to other major markets such as Iran, India, and China are also declining. Two years ago, the high price of raw jute forced many buyers to look for alternatives to jute products.