Jute is a rain-fed crop with little need for fertilizer or pesticides. The production is concentrated in India and Bangladesh. The jute fibre comes from the stem and ribbon (outer skin) of the jute plant. The fibres are first extracted by retting. The retting process consists of bundling jute stems together and immersing them in low, running water. There are two types of retting: stem and ribbon. After the retting process, stripping begins. Women and children usually do this job. In the stripping process, non-fibrous matter is scraped off, then the workers dig in and grab the fibres from within the jute stem. India, Pakistan, China are the large buyers of local jute while Britain, Spain, Ivory Coast, Germany and Brazil also import raw jute from Bangladesh. India is the world's largest jute growing country.

Jute is the second most important vegetable fibre after cotton; not only for cultivation, but also for various uses. Jute is used chiefly to make cloth for wrapping bales of raw cotton, and to make sacks and coarse cloth. The fibres are also woven into curtains, chair coverings, carpets, area rugs, hessian cloth, and backing for linoleum. Traditionally jute was used in traditional textile machineries as textile fibres having cellulose (vegetable fibre content) and lignin (wood fibre content).

But, the major breakthrough came when the automobile, pulp and paper, and the furniture and bedding industries started to use jute and its allied fibres with their non-woven and composite technology to manufacture nonwovens, technical textiles, and composites.

Therefore, jute has changed its textile fibre outlook and steadily heading towards its newer identity, Le. wood fibre. As a textile fibre, jute has reached its peak from where there is no hope of progress, but as a wood fibre jute has many promising features.

Jute can be used to create a number of fabrics such as Hessian cloth, sacking, scrim, carpet backing cloth (CBC), and canvas. Hessian, lighter than sacking, is used for bags, wrappers, wall-coverings, upholstery, and home furnishings. Sacking, a fabric made of heavy jute fibres, has its use in the name. CBC made of jute comes in two types. Primary CBC provides a tufting surface, while secondary CBC is bonded onto the primary backing for an overlay. Jute packaging is used as an eco-friendly substitute.

Diversified jute products are becoming more and more valuable to the consumer today. Among these are espadrilles, floor coverings, home textiles, high performance technical textiles, Geotextiles, composites, and more. Jute bags are used for making fashion bags & promotional bags. The ecofriendly nature of jute make it ideal for corporate gifting.

Jute floor coverings consist of woven and tufted and piled carpets. Jute Mats and mattings with 5 / 6 mts width and of continuous length are easilly being woven in Southern parts of India, in solid and fancy shades, and in different weaves like, Boucle, Panama, Herringbone, etc. Jute Mats & Rugs are made both through Powerloom & Handloom, in large volume from Kerala, India. The traditional Satranji mat is becoming very popular in home decor. Jute non-wovens and composites can be used for underlay, linoleum substrate, and more. Jute has many advantages as a home textile, either replacing cotton or blending with it. It is a strong, durable, color and light-fast fibre. Its UV protection, sound and heat insulation, low thermal conduction and anti-static properties make it a wise choice in home decor. Also, fabrics made of jute fibres are carbon-dioxide neutral and naturally decomposable. These properties are also why jute can be used in high performance technical textiles.

Moreover, jute can be grown in 4-6 months with a huge amount of cellulose being produced from the jute hurd (inner woody core or parenchyma of the jute stem) that can meet most of the wood needs of the world. Jute is the major crop among others that is able to protect deforestation by industrialisation.

Thus, jute is the most environmentfriendly fibre starting from the seed to expired fibre, as the expired fibres can be recycled more than once. Jute is also used in the making of ghillie suits which are used as camouflage and resemble grasses or brush.

Another diversified jute product is Geotextiles, which made this agricultural commodity more popular in the agricultural sector. It is a lightly woven fabric made from natural fibres that is used for soil erosion control, seed protection, weed control, and many other agricultural and landscaping uses.

The Geotextiles can be used more than a year and the bio-degradable jute Geotextile left to rot on the ground keeps the ground cool and is able to make the land more fertile. Methods such as this could be used to transfer the fertility of the Ganges Delta to the deserts of Sahara or Australia.

Originally published in New Cloth Market: February 2010