THE GOLDEN FIBER OF BENGAL
Jute, nicknamed "Golden Fiber" is a 100% bio-degradable, recyclable, long, soft, shiny plant fiber that can be spun into coarse, strong threads. These threads are woven into textile yarns to produce sacks, carpet base, mats, rope and twine and many other materials.
Jute is a rainy season crop, growing best in warm, humid climates. India, Bangladesh, and China are the main producers of jute. Jute is being used for centuries but industrialised Jute textiles and yarns production started during mid nineteenth century in Dundee, Scotland from the raw Jutes imported mainly from Bengal. By the 1920s Indian Jute Industries mainly the Calcutta mills started competition with Dundee.
The partition of British India in 1947 put an international boundary between the source of the basic commodity in Bangladesh (former East Pakistan) and the manufacturing center in Calcutta (India) and imposed a great burden on Pakistan to compensate for the disruption of the industry that was its greatest source of foreign earnings. But between 1947 and 1971 not enough jute mills were constructed in East Pakistan to lift the industry. East Pakistan could resort to exporting mainly raw Jute at the height of this industry.
In the 1960s, petroleum-based synthetics entered the market, competing with jute for practically all of its uses. The liberation war of 1971 culminating in the emergence of independent Bangladesh and subsequent rebuilding process drove many traditional buyers of jute to shift to synthetics. Jute trade reduced sharply in the next decade and during the mid eighties prices became too low to cover the costs of production. The government started to subsidize this sector which was the largest export earners of the country before losing its supremacy to the garments industry in the early nineties.
The enemy of jute is the competitiveness of polypropylene & polyethylene (known as plastic) materials in the packaging industry because of their flexibility, water resistant quality and light weight. But the nature conscious people will certainly weigh jute over synthetics & plastics because of its bio degradability and low price. Its true that because of advance in technology, traditional Jute products cannot be used in machineries. That is why diversification of Jute products is required. The Jute researchers have developed a large number of innovative new products with high value-addition such as home textiles, jute composites, jute geo-textiles, paper pulp, technical textiles, chemical products, handicrafts and fashion accessories etc.
Bangladesh's competitive advantage in the Jute sector is the fact that jute production is very much labor intensive. The agriculture based country's large rural underemployment can be made use with lower wage rate than other Jute producing countries. In 1985 Bangladesh's share of world trade amounted to 77 percent of all raw jute trade and 45 percent of jute goods. There are realistic possibilities for expanding the share still further if the Jute mills start diversification of Jute products and take an aggressive marketing policy.
Asif Anwar of the Golden Fibre Trade Centre Limited (GFTCL), the leading Bangladeshi Jute exporter writes:
The fascinating fact about Jute is that, it is the widely cultivated vegetable fiber after cotton. I am talking about world production, not the production of Bangladesh. So, think how much fiber this little fertile country produces. However, due to advancement in agriculture, the Indian production of Jute now exceeds the quantity of Bangladesh. Our farmers use high cost good Jute seeds smuggled from India. That's a very bad news for us and for our tradition, as jute is our tradition for centuries. Jute has now entered several diversified sectors. The casing of the very monitor where you are reading this mail can be made from jute, not to mention telephone sets, mouse, interior particle boards, and all other non-woven and composite materials you can think of. Nope, not from the hurd (Pat Kathi) from the Raw Fiber. As Jute has very high tensile strength, even the low quality fiber can give much utility. Henry Ford (CEO of the FORD car co,) has experimented in something that made our Jute farmers happy. He invented a mix of natural and synthetic fibers that was able to produce harder but flexible particle board, that now is being utilized as the inner filling of the door pannel. Previously, glass fiber was used in that place, which used to emit poisonous gas when the car faced any accident. Therefore, people would die of poisonous gas inhalition, not by wounds. Another fact that increased the demand for Jute is the European Union Convention to go for "Green Production". They have banned the use of synthetic materials in Automotive Interiors and encouraged the manufacturers to go for Natural Fibers. Therefore, Jute can again become our beloved "Golden Fiber".
He also informs that no one in the USA nor in other countries knows about Jute. The keyword "What is Jute" is more searched than "Jute Fiber" or "Raw Jute" in the search engines. The Internet Research & Promotion Division of GFTCL is spending 9-12 hours a day for the promotion of Jute, not only for the company. That is really splendid.
Jute in Banglapedia
Jute, kenaf and allied fibres (FAO)
Diversified Jute products - International Jute Study group
Jute Industry in Bangladesh