The strong threads made from jute fibre are used worldwide in sackcloth - and help sustain the livelihoods of millions of small farmers
Jute is extracted from the bark of the white jute plant, Corchorus capsularis and to a lesser extent from tossa jute (C. olitorius). It flourishes in tropical lowland areas with humidity of 60% to 90%. A hectare of jute plants consumes about 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide and releases 11 tonnes of oxygen. Yields are about 2 tonnes of dry jute fibre per hectare.
Dubbed the "golden fibre", jute is long, soft and shiny, with a length of 1 to 4 m and a diameter of from 17 to 20 microns. It is one of nature's strongest vegetable fibres and ranks second only to cotton in terms of production quantity. Jute has high insulating and anti-static properties, moderate moisture regain and low thermal conductivity.
CNR-ISMAC, Biella, Italy
Bangladesh and West Bengal in India the world's main jute producers, with Myanmar and Nepal producing much smaller quantities. In India and Bangladesh some 4 million farmers earn their living - and support 20 million dependents - from jute cultivation, while hundreds of thousands work in the jute manufacturing sector.
Production and trade
Jute production fluctuates, influenced by weather conditions and prices. Annual output ranges from 2.3 to 2.8 million tonnes, on a par with wool. India produces 60% of the world's jute, with Bangladesh accounting for most of the rest. Bangladesh exports around half as raw fibre, and half as manufactured items. India exports only 200 000 tonnes of jute products, the remainder being consumed domestically.
Uses of jute
Jute Bags India
During the Industrial Revolution, jute yarn largely replaced flax and hemp fibres in sackcloth. Today, sacking still makes up the bulk of manufactured jute products.
Jute yarn and twines are also woven into curtains, chair coverings, carpets, rugs and backing for linoleum. Blended with other fibres, it is used in cushion covers, toys, wall hangings, lamp shades and shoes. Very fine threads can be separated out and made into imitation silk (below).
Jute is being used increasingly in rigid packaging and reinforced plastic and is replacing wood in pulp and paper.
Geotextiles made from jute are biodegradable, flexible, absorb moisture and drain well. They are used to prevent soil erosion and landslides .