Jute 'activated charcoal', a new export item made out of jute sticks, has the potential to help the country attain its export target of US$ 60 billion by 2021 if the sector gets necessary policy supports from the government, according to the sector insiders.
The charcoal is scientifically known as 'Jute Stick Charcoal Dust Powder', also commonly known as 'jute stick carbon'.
Bangladesh started producing 'activated charcoal' since 2012.
The country exported jute stick carbon to China and earned Tk 140 million during the fiscal year (FY) 2015-16.
Bangladesh enjoys duty-free market access to China.
The volume of 'activated charcoal' export could be doubled to access the duty-free market facility offered by China.
There are wide ranges of demand for charcoal in different countries. Bangladesh could also export the item to Japan, Turkey, the United States, Australia, Taiwan, Canada, Mexico and the Republic of Korea (ROK).
Products like face wash, dried ink of photocopier machine, water filtering, medicines to destroy poison and clean teeth are being made by activated charcoal, according to the industry insiders.
At present, charcoal is produced in Jamalpur, Narayanganj, Rajshahi, Pabna, Rajbari and Faridpur districts.
The country produces 3.0 million tonnes of jute stick annually. Of these, if 50 per cent of jute sticks are properly used, then 2,50,000 tonnes of charcoal could be produced yearly, helping the country earn over Tk 20 billion through export.
About the method of charcoal production, entrepreneurs said they first burn dried jute sticks naturally. And after burning, there are ash/ carbon powder (charcoal) that contains over 86 per cent of carbon.
Considering the huge export opportunity, many foreigners have expressed their interest to invest in Bangladesh for producing more charcoal products. Though the sector has a tremendous opportunity for such export, some bottlenecks in the sector still remain.
There will be an inter-ministerial meeting to address the bottlenecks of the new prospective sector at the ministry of textiles and jute (MoTJ) on July 31.
The meeting will discuss providing incentives on charcoal export, extending green loans for the sector and formation of a Charcoal Board to look after the sector's problems, a high official of the MoTJ told the FE.
"We want government cooperation to gear up charcoal export," Syed Manirul Islam, a leading exporter told the FE.
A small factory requires at least 100 tonnes of charcoal for producing products monthly. Per tonne of charcoal costs between US $ 800 and $ 900.