Jute is a long, soft, shiny vegetable fiber that can be spun into course, strong threads. "Jute" is the name of the plant fiber that is used to make: burlap, hessian or gunny cloth.
It is one of the most affordable natural fibers and is second only to cotton in the amount that is produced globally. It falls into the bast fiber category (fiber collected from bast, the phloem of the plant, is sometimes called the "skin") located on the stem of the plant. The fibers are off-white to brown, and 1 - 4 meters (3 - 13 feet) long. Jute is called the golden fiber because of its color and its high cash value.
Jute is a rain-fed crop with little need for fertilizer or pesticides. Production is concentrated mostly in Bangladesh and India on the wet alluvial soils of the Ganges delta.
India 1,968,000 tonnes
Bangledesh 1,349,000 tonnes
The fibers are first extracted by retting. The most widely practiced method of retting, called water retting, is performed by submerging bundles of stalks in water. Retting is a process employing the action of micro-organisms and moisture on plants to dissolve or rot away much of the cellular tissues and pectins surrounding bast-fiber bundles, and so facilitating separation of the fiber from the stem. Then the long fibers are scraped and hung to dry.
Since the seventeenth century the British started trading in jute. More than a billion jute sandbags were exported from Bengal to the trenches during World War I and also exported to the United States southern region to bag cotton. It was used in the fishing, construction, art and the arms industry. The industry boomed throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but this trade had largely ceased by about 1970 due to the emergence of synthetic fibers. In the 21st century, jute has again rose to be an important crop for export around the world in contrast to synthetic fiber.
Globally, jute is the second most important vegetable fiber after cotton due to its versatility. It is used chiefly to make cloth for wrapping bales of raw cotton, and to make sacks and coarse cloth. The fibers are also woven into curtains, chair coverings, geotextiles, hessian cloth, backing for linoleum, carpet backing and Jute Area Rugs to mention just a few uses. Jute packaging is also used as an eco-friendly substitute. The fiber is soft, yet strong, and takes on dye very well.