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International Year
of Natural Fibres
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IYNF Coordinating Unit
Trade and Markets Division
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00153 Rome, Italy
Fax: +39 06 57054495
E-mail: IYNF-2009@fao.org

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Natural fibres

Ramie

Not widely known outside the East Asian countries that produce it, ramie is lightweight, silky and made for summer

The plant

Tonio Vega

Native to East Asia and commonly known as China grass, ramie (Boehmeria nivea) is a flowering plant of the nettle family. Its bark has been used for millennia to make twine and thread, and spun as grass-cloth (or "Chinese linen"). It grows to a height of 3 m. Yields of green plants range from 8 to 20 tonnes per hectare, with fibre yields of 1.5 tonnes reported.

The fibre

Ramie fibre is white with a silky lustre, similar to flax in absorbency and density but coarser (25-30 microns). One of the strongest natural fibres, it has low elasticity and dyes easily. Strands of ramie range up to 190 cm in length, with individual cells as long as 40 cm. Trans-fibre fissures make ramie brittle but favour ventilation.

CNR-ISMAC, Biella, Italy

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Producers

Xinyuagri

The ramie plant is grown for fibre mainly in China, Brazil, the Lao PDR and the Philippines. While it is considered a promising "ecological" fibre for use in textiles, fibre extraction and cleaning is difficult and labour-intensive.

Production and trade

FAO estimates world production of ramie green plant at 280 000 tonnes in 2005, almost all of it grown in China. Most of the ramie fibre extracted is used in producing countries, and only a small percentage reaches international markets. The main importers are Japan, Germany, France and the UK.

Korea Award

Uses of ramie

News Sc

Coarse ramie fibres are suitable for making twine, rope and nets. Wet-spun, it produces a fine yarn with high lustre (at left), suitable for a wide range of garments, ranging from dresses to jeans.

Fabrics of 100% ramie are lightweight and silky, similar in appearance to linen. The Korean traditional costume, the ramie hanbok (at right), is renowned for its fineness.

Global B2B Network

However, since it has low elasticity and resilience, ramie is usually blended with other textile fibres. It increases the lustre and strength of cotton fabric and reduces shrinkage in wool blends. It is also blended with silk.