Jute is a long, soft, shiny vegetable fibre that can be spun into coarse, strong threads. It is produced from plants in the genus Corchorus, which has been classified in the family Tiliaceae, or more recently in Malvaceae.
Jute is one of the most affordable natural fibres and is second only to cotton in amount produced and variety of uses of vegetable fibers. Jute fibres are composed primarily of the plant materials cellulose (major component of plant fibre) and lignin (major components of wood fibre). It is thus a ligno-cellulosic fibre that is partially a textile fibre and partially wood. It falls into the bast fibre category (fibre collected from bast or skin of the plant) along with kenaf, industrial hemp, flax (linen), ramie, etc. The industrial term for jute fibre is raw jute. The fibres are off-white to brown, and 1–4 metres (3–12 feet) long.
Jute fibre is often called hessian; jute fabrics are also called hessian cloth and jute sacks are called gunny bags in some European countries. The fabric made from jute is popularly known as burlap in North America.
Jute needs a plain alluvial soil and standing water. The suitable climate for growing jute (warm and wet climate) is offered by the monsoon climate during the monsoon season. Temperatures from 20?C to 40?C and relative humidity of 70%–80% are favourable for successful cultivation. Jute requires 5–8 cm of rainfall weekly and more during the sowing period.
White jute (Corchorus capsularis)
Several historical documents (including, Ain-e-Akbari by Abul Fazal in 1590) state that the poor villagers of India used to wear clothes made of jute. Simple hand looms and hand spinning wheels were used by the weavers, who use to spin cotton yarns as well. History also states that Indians, especially Bengalis, used ropes and twines made of white jute from ancient times for household and other uses.
Tossa jute (Corchorus olitorius)
Tossa jute (Corchorus olitorius) is an Afro-Arabian variety. It is quite popular for its leaves that are used as an ingredient in a mucilaginous potherb called molokhiya , popular in certain Arab countries. The Book of Job in the Hebrew Bible mentions this vegetable potherb as Jew’s mallow.
Tossa jute fibre is softer, silkier, and stronger than white jute. This variety astonishingly showed good sustainability in the climate of the Ganges Delta. Along with white jute, tossa jute has also been cultivated in the soil of Bengal where it is known as paat from the start of the 19th century. Currently, the Bengal region (West Bengal, India, and Bangladesh) is the largest global producer of the tossa jute variety.
For centuries, jute has been an integral part of culture of Bengal, in the entire southwest of Bangladesh and some portions of West Bengal. During the British Raj in the 19th and early 20th centuries, much of the raw jute fibre of Bengal was carried off to the United Kingdom, where it was then processed in mills concentrated in
Dundee. Initially, due to its texture, it could only be processed by hand until it was discovered in that city that treating it with whale oil, it could be treated by machine  The industry boomed (“jute weaver” was a recognised trade occupation in the 1901 UK census), but this trade had largely ceased by about 1970 due to the appearance of synthetic fibres.
Margaret Donnelly, a jute mill landowner in Dundee in the 1800s, set up the first jute mills in Bengal. In the 1950s and 1960s, when nylon and polythene were rarely used, one of the primary sources of foreign exchange earnings for the erstwhile United Pakistan was the export of jute products, based on jute grown in then East Bengal now Bangladesh. Jute has been called the “Golden Fibre of Bangladesh.” However, as the use of polythene and other synthetic materials as a substitute for jute increasingly captured the market, the jute industry in general experienced a decline.
During some years in the 1980s, farmers in Bangladesh burnt their jute crops when an adequate price could not be obtained. Many jute exporters diversified away from jute to other commodities. Jute-related organisations and government bodies were also forced to close, change or downsize. The long decline in demand forced the largest jute mill in the world (Adamjee Jute Mills) to close in Bangladesh. Bangladesh’s second largest mill, Latif Bawany Jute Mills, formerly owned by businessman, Yahya Bawany, was nationalized by the government. Farmers in Bangladesh have not completely ceased growing jute, however, mainly due to demand in the internal market. Between 2004–2010, the jute market recovered and the price of raw jute increased more than 500%.
Jute has entered many diverse sectors of industry, where natural fibres are gradually becoming better substitutes. Among these industries are paper, celluloid products (films), non-woven textiles, composites (pseudo-wood), and geotextiles.
In December 2006 the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed 2009 to be the International Year of Natural Fibres, so as to raise the profile of jute and other natural fibres.
Jute is a rain-fed crop with little need for fertilizer or pesticides. The production is concentrated in Bangladesh and some in India, mainly Bengal. 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.
No symbol = official figure, F = FAO estimate, A = Aggregate (may include official, semi-official or estimates);
Source: Food And Agricultural Organization of United Nations: Economic And Social Department: The Statistical Division
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.
While jute is being replaced by synthetic materials in many of these uses, some uses take advantage of jute’s biodegradable nature, where synthetics would be unsuitable. Examples of such uses include containers for planting young trees, which can be planted directly with the container without disturbing the roots, and land restoration where jute cloth prevents erosion occurring while natural vegetation becomes established.
The fibres are used alone or blended with other types of fibres to make twine and rope. Jute rope has long been popular in Japan for use in bondage. Jute butts, the coarse ends of the plants, are used to make inexpensive cloth. Conversely, very fine threads of jute can be separated out and made into imitation silk. As jute fibres are also being used to make pulp and paper, and with increasing concern over forest destruction for the wood pulp used to make most paper, the importance of jute for this purpose may increase. Jute has a long history of use in the sackings, carpets, wrapping fabrics (cotton bale), and construction fabric manufacturing industry.
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, i.e., 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, Geo textiles, composites, and more.
Jute floor coverings
They consist of woven and tufted and piled carpets. Jute Mats and matting with 5 / 6 mts width and of continuous length are easily 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-woven 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 environment-friendly fibre starting from the seed to expired fibre, as the expired fibres can be recycled more than once.
Jute is also used to make ghillie suits, which are used as camouflage and resemble grasses or brush.
Another diversified jute product is Geo textiles, 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 Geo textiles can be used more than a year and the bio-degradable jute Geo textile 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.
Jute has gained an advantage as being an eco-friendly option instead of poly and paper bags as polybag are made from petroleum and are non-biodegradable and manufacturing paperbags requires large quantities of wood. Jute has none of these problems and are therefore being used widely for these purposes but higher cost is a setback for it. It is also used for making fashion & promotional bags.
Jute leaves are consumed in various parts of the world. It is a popular vegetable in West Africa. The Yoruba of Nigeria call it “ewedu”. The Hausa people of Nigeria and their Fulbe neighbours call it “rama.” They use it to produce soup (“taushe”) or boil the leaves and mix it with “Kuli-kuli” or groundnut cake and consume the mixture which they call “kwado” in Hausa. The Hausa peasant farmers cultivate it beside their corn-stalk constructed homesteads or among their main crops in their farms. There are commercial jute farmers in
Northern and South Western Nigeria. They (jute commercial farmers)have a strong National Association registered by the authorities. In Northern Sudan it’s called “Khudra” meaning green in Sudanese Arabic. The Hausa and Fulbe peoples also use jute leaves to treat some diseases. And the Songhay of Mali call it “fakohoy” whereas Tunisians call it mulukhiyah. It is made into a common mucilaginous (somewhat “slimy”) soup or sauce in some West African cooking traditions, as well as in Egypt, where it is called mulukhiyya, Cypriots call it molocha – and that refers to food – in terms of fibre this would be unknown – and it is sometimes eaten as boiled vegetable with lemon and olive oil. It is also a popular dish in the northern provinces of the Philippines, where it is known as saluyot. Jute leaves are also consumed among the Luyhia people of Western Kenya, where it is commonly known as ‘mrenda’ or ‘murere’. It is eaten with ‘ugali’, which is also a staple for most communities in Kenya. The leaves are rich in betacarotene, iron, calcium, and Vitamin C. The plant has an antioxidant activity with a significant ?-tocopherol equivalent Vitamin E.
Diversified byproducts from jute can be used in cosmetics, medicine, paints, and other products.
- Jute fibre is 100% bio-degradable and recyclable and thus environmentally friendly.
- It is a natural fibre with golden and silky shine and hence called The Golden Fibre.
- It is the cheapest vegetable fibre procured from the bast or skin of the plant’s stem.
- It is the second most important vegetable fibre after cotton, in terms of usage, global consumption, production, and availability.
- It has high tensile strength, low extensibility, and ensures better breathability of fabrics. Therefore, jute is very suitable in agricultural commodity bulk packaging.
- It helps to make best quality industrial yarn, fabric, net, and sacks. It is one of the most versatile natural fibres that has been used in raw materials for packaging, textiles, non-textile, construction, and agricultural sectors. Bulking of yarn results in a reduced breaking tenacity and an increased breaking extensibility when blended as a ternary blend.
- The best source of jute in the world is the Bengal Delta Plain in the Ganges Delta, most of which is occupied by Bangladesh.
- Advantages of jute include good insulating and antistatic properties, as well as having low thermal conductivity and a moderate moisture regain. Other advantages of jute include acoustic insulating properties and manufacture with no skin irritations.
- Jute has the ability to be blended with other fibres, both synthetic and natural, and accepts cellulosic dye classes such as natural, basic, vat, sulfur, reactive, and pigment dyes. As the demand for natural comfort fibres increases, the demand for jute and other natural fibres that can be blended with cotton will increase. To meet this demand, some manufactures in the natural fibre industry plan to modernize processing with the Rieter’s Elitex system. The resulting jute/cotton yarns will produce fabrics with a reduced cost of wet processing treatments. Jute can also be blended with wool. By treating jute with caustic soda, crimp, softness, pliability, and appearance is improved, aiding in its ability to be spun with wool. Liquid ammonia has a similar effect on jute, as well as the added characteristic of improving flame resistance when treated with flameproofing agents.
- Some noted disadvantages include poor drapability and crease resistance, brittleness, fibre shedding, and yellowing in sunlight. However, preparation of fabrics with Castor oil lubricants result in less yellowing and less fabric weight loss, as well as increased dyeing brilliance. Jute has a decreased strength when wet, and also becomes subject to microbial attack in humid climates. Jute can be processed with an enzyme in order to reduce some of its brittleness and stiffness. Once treated with an enzyme, jute shows an affinity to readily accept natural dyes, which can be made from marigold flower extract. In one attempt to dye jute fabric with this extract, bleached fabric was mordanted with ferrous sulphate, increasing the fabric’s dye uptake value. Jute also responds well to reactive dyeing. This process is used for bright and fast coloured value-added diversified products made from jute.
1. BBC.co.uk (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00n5pvr/Brian_Coxs_Jute_Journey/)
2.a b Jute. (IJSG) (http://web.archive.org/web/20080526151933/http://www.jute.org/home2.htm) . Retrieved 13 June 2007.
3. The Golden Fibre Trade Centre Limited. (GFTCL) – Articles & Information on Jute, Kenaf, & Roselle Hemp (http://exporter-of-jute-products.blogspot.com/) .