Natural fibres are those renewable fibres that are taken from plants, and animals which are transformed into yarn for textiles. They are taken from plant leaf, inner bark or fruit/seed, insect cocoon, animal wool or hair, or from any mineral product. Using natural fibres to manufacture clothing has been in vogue for thousands of years. The average annual production of natural fibres; globally is estimated to be around 30 million tones. Cotton dominates the natural fibres market with 20 million tones, wool with 2 million and jute with 3 million tones and the rest shared by the other fibres.
The year 2009 has been declared as the International Year of Natural Fibres (IYNF). This will be officially launched on January 22nd, at the Headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome, Italy. The main objective is to raise the profile for these fibres, and highlight their value to the consumers.
- To raise awareness, create, and increase the demand for natural fibres.
- To foster international partnership among various natural fibre industries.
- To enhance efficiency and sustainability of natural fibres.
Since 1960s, there was a diversification in the trend of the global fabric market, with a growth towards the usage of synthetic fibres mostly derived from petrochemicals. This is due to the short term economic advantages that synthetic fibres offer. Now, with the increasing awareness of global warming, there is a drive manipulating the global market to move away from the petrochemical based fibres, to natural fibres. Natural fibres of plant sources include kenaf, flax, cotton, hemp, ramie, sisal, linen, jute, lime, bamboo, seagrass, and abaca. Animal sources of natural fibres include camel, goat, sheep, alpaca, and llama, and can be either wool, or leather, or; hair. Insect fibres come mainly from silkworms.
Textile industry uses a wide assortment of natural fibres. Changing fads, innovations in the textile technology, globalization, amount of disposable income in the hands of consumers, and supply chain have all influenced the consumption of fibres considerably. Besides their input in textile production, natural fibres contribute to providing employment opportunities to millions of people, and enable economic development in many countries. Keeping these virtues in consideration, to promote awareness about natural fibres, foster international partnership among natural fibre industries, and to encourage the Government to come up with appropriate policy measures to solve the problems faced by natural fibre industries, the United Nations have proclaimed 2009 as the International Year of Natural Fibres (IYNF).
Many countries produce natural fibres, and they are of major economic importance in some countries. Cotton is a major fibre in West African countries, jute in Bangladesh, and sisal is a major fibre in Tanzania. Sale proceeds of natural fibres and generation of foreign exchange revenue play an integral role in the development of a country, and also contribute significantly to the food security, and income of poor farmers in the developing and under developed countries.
Natural fibres are an important component of clothing, upholstery, and many other textiles. These fibre industries generate employment opportunities for millions of people and contribute to a greener planet. The fibres are environmentally friendly both in terms of production, and disposal. Therefore, promoting the use of natural fibres will also enhance the environment. It helps us to attain a sustainable way of living.