• Jute industry is one of the oldest textile industries involving directly or indirectly a large number of people.
  • Today, sustainability of this industry is being questioned in different forums. Possible facts which are responsible to sustain this industry have been discussed elaborately. It also covers different segments of this industry wherein, their present scenario and future requirements for sustainability and opportunities are explained.
  • A study has been made to cover product manufacturing, machine manufacturing and marketing industries associated with this industry. Diversification of process and product are the important aspects for self-sustenance of this industry.

1. Introduction: History and Present Scenario of Jute Industry-An overview

  • Among several natural fibres, Jute is next to cotton as per availability is concerned. It is second to flax origins in Mediterranean region and later it came to India. Based on the records, jute was known as 'patta' in 800 BC. It has been popular for more than a century for its industrial applications mainly as packaging material in different sectors, agricultural and geo-textile application and carpet backing.
  • Since 17th to 20th century, the jute industry in India was delegated by the British East India Company, which was the first jute trader. Palit and Kajaria, 2007 documented several historical events which were evidence for the growth of the jute industry.
  • In 1854, the first jute mill/factory in India was established at Rishira, which is about 20 km north of Calcutta. The jute industry made tremendous progress in the later part of the 19th century. Later during the 19th century, the manufacturing of jute has started in other countries like in France, America, Italy, Austria, Russia, Belgium and Germany. Most of the Jute tycoons had started to quit India, leaving the set up of jute mills during Independence after which the Indian businessmen owned most of the jute mills.
  • In recent days, jute textile industry is one of the major industries catering the eastern part of India, particularly in West Bengal. This industry supports around 40 lakh farm families and provides direct employment to 2.6 lakh industrial workers and 1.4 lakh in the tertiary sector.
  • The production process in the Jute Industry passes through a variety of actions, which begins with the cultivation of raw jute, processing of jute fibres, spinning, weaving, bleaching, dyeing, finishing and marketing of both, the raw jute and its finished products. As such its labour-output ratio is also high in spite of various difficulties being faced by the industry. Capacity utilization of the industry is around 75 per cent. Jute industry contributes to the export earnings in the range of Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 1, 200 crore annually.

2. Problems Associated in Jute Industries:

  • In India, jute industry suffered a serious setback in 1947 due to the partition of the subcontinent. After partition about 80 percent of the jute growing areas went to East Pakistan (Bangladesh), while nearly 90 per cent jute mills remained in India. In 1959, the international demand of jute products decreased substantially as a result of which 112 jute factories were closed down. At present there are only 60 jute producing mills in India. Most of these mills are along the Hooghly River, especially to the north of Kolkata.
  • Since the establishment of this industry, most of the jute industries till today are being producing the age old products like jute sacking and hessian as packaging material and some extent carpet backing. These products in total account around 95 per cent of the total production of the industry. Only countable industries are involved in diversified product development process for commercial purposes. These products are mostly laminated jute fabric, geo-textile, industrial textiles, etc.
  • This specific industry is also using the age-old machinery to produce jute yarns and fabrics (except 2-3 countable industry). Due to the use of very old primitive machinery, the efficiency of the machines is not up to the mark (in an average within 80 per cent). Due to frequent breakdowns, defective and inferior quality products are being made. No modernization has been made in machinery development and automation. This in total requires more manpower with the cost of production is increasing day-by-day which proves to be a challenge for the industry.
  • Apart from these, there is stiff competition with synthetic industry for similar packaging material, as the synthetic material is much cheaper in nature.
  • According to the Jute Packaging Norms and Legal Protection to Jute Cultivators the Parliament of India had enacted the JPM (Jute Packaging Mandatory) Act, 1987 with an objective to protect the Jute industry. As per this act, the food grain and sugar produced is reserved and mandatorily packed in jute bags manufactured every year.
  • The Government of India, recently found that the jute industry could not match demands in 2011- 12 for supply of 13 lakh bales or 4.33 lakh tons of gunny bags for Rabi crop supply of 2012 - 13. Government said that with 10 mills remaining closed the jute industry is short in capacity by 1.5 lakh ton. Presently, it can produce 11lakh tons of jute sacks / gunny bags. Its installed capacity however is 15.02 lakh tons and assuming 83 per cent utilization its stated capacity is 12.47 lakh tons. The industry earns a business of around Rs. 10,000 crore by selling its entire produce to FCI (Food Corporation of India), sugar mills, co-operatives and in the Indian market apart from the export. FCI makes a bulk purchase of almost 35-40 per cent of jute mills produce. In 2012-13 FCI is expected to purchase 6.34 lakh tons and 4.33 lakh jute/ gunny bags.
  • Apart from the above problems, in India, jute industry suffers a lot from different political interference, labour problem, shortage of jute fibre supply due to low rainfall among other issues leading to challenge the sustainability of the jute industry.

3. Sustainability and Opportunities in Jute Industry:

  • Today with the advent of science, a lot of diversified products has been developed from jute and jute-based material, which has more cost-benefit ratio. The Indian Jute industry has been expanding really fast spanning from a wide range of lifestyle consumer products, courtesy to the versatility of Jute.
  • Innovative ways of bleaching, dyeing and finished goods processes – the jute industry now provides finished jute products that are softer and have luster with aesthetic appeal. Today Jute has been defined as eco-friendly natural fiber with utmost versatility ranging from low value geo-textiles to high value carpets, decorative, apparels, composites, upholstery furnishings, etc.
  • One can look into the important properties of jute fibre since it has huge diversifying potentiality. Advantages of jute include good insulating and antistatic properties, as well as having low thermal conductivity and a moderate moisture regain.
  • It 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. While relatively cheap synthetic materials in many uses are replacing jute, but jute's biodegradable nature is suitable for the storage of food materials, where synthetics would be unsuitable.

Conclusions and Impending:

  • Application of jute area must be increased. India needs to work on quality by adopting new technologies. Jute Research organizations such as ICAR-NINFET, Kolkata, IJIRA, Kolkata, Department of Jute and Fibre Technology, Kolkata, Directorate of Jute Development, National Jute Board, etc.must work together to utilize resources for the betterment of the industry.
  • Government must make efforts in R&D to strengthen the jute industry and implement newer technologies, diversified products and improved machinery through intensive modernization. These will fetch more profit and has less market competition (synthetic counterpart) due to its eco-friendly property which has good prospects in the coming days.

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Courtesy: Kurukshetra