Produced from flowering plants in the genus Corchorus, jute is extracted from the bark of the white jute plant, Corchorus capsularis, though can also be extracted from Tossa jute (C. olitorius) too.
Only second to cotton, jute is one of the most cultivated, widely used, and important natural fibers. It is used in many applications and can be found in a variety of products, ranging from curtains and carpets to sacks, bags, and coarse cloth. In some parts of the world, jute even has culinary applications where its leaves are used as a part of soup preparations.
As jute is 100% biodegradable and needs even less water, pesticides, maintenance, and fertilization to yield significant crops than cotton, it is predicted that its use will become even more widespread as populations become more environmentally conscious.
How Jute Fiber is Made
There is evidence that jute fiber was produced as far back as 3000 BC – and it’s even possible that the cultivation of jute for fiber purposes precedes this date. The production of jute fiber hasn’t changed much over all those years either. The process typically looks something like this:
- Harvesting – Mature jute stalks are harvested by hand
- Defoliating – The stalks are then defoliated
- Retting – Retting is a process to remove the non-fibrous material from the stem and skin and of the jute stalk
- Separating and Combing – After the stalk has been retted, it is then possible to separate the long, silky fibers and comb them into long strings
- Spinning – These combed fibers can then be spun into yarn
- Finishing – The fibers may then undergo any one of a number of chemical processes to make them water-resistant, fire-resistant, or dyed in color
- Weaving – The final stage is to ship the finished reels to production facilities to be woven into apparel or industrial textiles.
India is the world’s largest producer of the “golden fiber” known as jute, with much of its production occurring in the states of Assam, Bihar, and West Bengal. In India, it is in fact the law to use jute as packaging materials, which also explains why India is globally the largest consumer of jute too.
Bangladesh follows India as the second major producer of jute. The country actually supplies the highest quality of jute fiber in the world. This comes from the Jat Area, which is situated in the North-Eastern part of Bangladesh.
China is the third-largest producer of jute in the world, though as jute competes with other necessary crops its cultivation is not emphasized. Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Egypt, and Zimbabwe also cultivate jute in some capacity too.