Manas Banerjee: In Dinajpur this variety of jute plant is called Tyapra paat (Tyapra jute). It grows faster than others and the harvest is also earlier than others but the produce is less. Since this plant produces less jute most farmers don’t use it anymore. Pat shak (jute leaves cooked and consumed as a leafy vegetable dish) is from this species of jute plant. Tosha paat (Tosha jute) is mainly used for jute cultivation, it’s very profitable and as you know jute is mostly cultivated to sell and make profit. There are various grades within jute, tosha jute is of highest grade of all. Nowadays this variety is mostly cultivated because it’s of the highest grade and it also grows taller than other types thus producing more jute. Its fibre is also better. The jute fibre from this variety (tosha jute) is thicker than this other (tyapra) variety.
Q: What is the investment to cultivate one bigha of land?
M.B.: They plough and till (nihani) the land twice at their farm. Nirani is the ploughing and tilling of the land to get rid of the weeds. The most troubling thing for jute farmers nowadays is that for nirani it’s difficult for the farming family to do the labour, and as one needs to get this done within a fixed time, one must hire labourers for this. If I hire 15 labourers to till 1 bigha or half 1 acre of land, then it will cost Rs. 3000.
Now if the weeds return and I need to hire 15-20 labourers then again it will cost me Rs. 4000. So, it will be Rs. 7000. I am calculating per bigha of land. For cutting and water retting of the jute fibre will need another 10 labourers, which will cost another Rs. 2000. So, seven plus two totals Rs. 9000. For cultivation using plough will cost a minimum of Rs. 1000. For acres, it will be Rs. 2000, taking the minimum it will be Rs. 1000. Then it will be Rs. 10,000.
M.B.: Most land needs chemical fertilisers for cultivation. The thing is the cost of chemical fertiliser, earlier these fields required 10 kg of Shuphala fertiliser. Shuphala is a chemical fertiliser, a mixture of potassium and sulphur (potassium sulfate). So while earlier one needed only 10 kg maximum, nowadays most use 40 kg, some even 50 kg. Only 5 kg of chapan fertiliser was used by farmers of our generation, now one must use a minimum of 25 kg. So, 10 kg has become 50 kg in 1 acre of land.
Q: Is it because the fertility of the land has decreased?
M.B.: Yes, it’s exactly that. One must use 50 kg of shuphala fertiliser and 25 kg of chapan. So 75 kg of chemical fertiliser are to be used, along with other kinds of mixed fertiliser. The most problematic aspect of jute farming is the different kind of crop diseases the plants suffer. You can see this field has three types of Mesta jute, the seeds are not….
Q: Not well segregated?
M.B.: Yes, that is why we can see three different types here. This is one, it doesn’t grow that tall. Then there is this red one. And the last is the best of these, you can see it there, see that white one. This white one grows the tallest, productivity is the best, and after harvesting when we take it home we don’t get many scratches, this plant has fewer thorns than others. But you see these leaves, that type of plant…these grow thicker but during water retting the farmer faces a lot of trouble. Same with this red plant too. The best among these is this plant over here.
Q: This white one?
M.B.: Yes, this is the best type of Mesta jute.
Q: Do all these primarily grows in the lowland?
M.B.: Yes. The advantage of this jute plant is that the cows don’t eat them, one can carry far from home to sow. And after growing it doesn’t let weeds grow either. It is the best suited for cultivation.
Q: What is the yield of this type of jute in 1 bigha of land?
M.B.: Same as the Tosha jute, sometimes even more. The cost is also less, though sometimes it increases due to an increase in demand.