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Watch | India's 150-year-old jute industry

India is the world’s biggest producer of jute, followed by Bangladesh. Jute is primarily grown in West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Andhra Pradesh.

The jute industry in India is 150 years old. There are about 70 jute mills in the country, of which about 60 are in West Bengal along both the banks of river Hooghly.

Jute production is a labour intensive industry. It employs about two lakh workers in the West Bengal alone and 4 lakh workers across the country.

Jute is the only crop where earnings begin to trickle in way before the final harvest. The seeds are planted between April and May and harvested between July and August.

The leaves can be sold in vegetable markets for nearly two months of the four-month jute crop cycle. The tall, hardy grass shoots up to 2.5 metres and each part of it has several uses.

The outer layer of the stem produces the fibre that goes into making jute products. But the leaves can be cooked, the inner woody stems can be used to manufacture paper and the roots, which are left in the ground after harvest, improve the yield of subsequent crops.

Compared to rice, jute requires very little water and fertiliser. It is largely pest-resistant, and its rapid growth spurt ensures that weeds don’t stand a chance.

To top it all, the monetary returns on jute are twice that of paddy. An acre of land produces approximately nine quintals of fibre.

Not only does this wonder crop bring home higher returns compared to most cash and food crops, but it is also a massive winner on the sustainability front.

Also read: How cotton and jute bags are picking up

Jute is the second most abundant natural fibre in the world. It has high tensile strength, acoustic and thermal insulation, breathability, low extensibility, ease of blending with both synthetic and natural fibres, and antistatic properties.

Jute can be used: for insulation (replacing glass wool), geotextiles, activated carbon powder, wall coverings, flooring, garments, rugs, ropes, gunny bags, handicrafts, curtains, carpet backings, paper, sandals, carry bags, and furniture.

A ‘Golden Fibre Revolution’ has long been called for by various committees, but the jute industry is in dire need of basic reforms.

Two major problems of the industry are obsolete processing technology, and the lack of product diversification.

The availability of quality raw jute and shrinking acreage on the one-hand and the failure of most jute mills to modernise has left the sector dependent on government-support like packaging reservations. Only a section of the industry has diversified into non-packaging segments.

The Jute Packaging Materials (Compulsory Use in Packing Commodities) Act was enacted in 1987 to protect the jute sector from the plastic packaging segment.

In October 2020, the government decided that 100% food grains and 20% sugar will be mandatorily packaged in jute bags.


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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 7:45:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/indias-150-year-old-jute-industry/article33334372.ece

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