Jute industry is one of the oldest textile industries involving directly or indirectly a large number of people. 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. Government should make efforts in R&D to strengthen the industry and implement newer technologies, diversified products, and improved machinery through intensive modernization.
Among the different industries, the Jute industry is one of the oldest textile industries involving directly or indirectly a large number of people. Today, the 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 an important aspect of the self-sustenance of this industry.
Jute Industry in India
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 West Bengal alone and 4 lakh workers across the country.
Among several natural fibers, Jute is next to cotton as per availability is concerned. It is second to flax origins in the 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 geotextile applications, and carpet backing.
From the 17th to the 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 that were evidence of 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 started in other countries like 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 Industry in India is one of the major industries catering to 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 fibers
- finishing and marketing of both, the raw jute and its finished products.
As such its labor-output ratio is also high in spite of various difficulties being faced by the industry. The capacity utilization of the industry is around 75%. The jute industry contributes to export earnings in the range of Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 1, 200 crore annually.
After independence (1947), most of the jute cultivated lands remained in Bangladesh and the jute industries were left in India. This caused import of jute from neighboring country, Bangladesh. However, with the intervention of science and technology, today India is self-sufficient to produce the jute required for jute industries in our country.
Problems Associated with the Jute Industry in India
In India, the jute industry suffered a serious setback in 1947 due to the partition of the subcontinent. After the partition, about 80% of the jute growing areas went to East Pakistan (Bangladesh), while nearly 90% of jute mills remained in India. In 1959, the international demand for 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 today are producing age-old products like jute sacking and hessian as packaging material and some extent carpet backing. These products in total account for around 95 percent of the total production of the industry. Only countable industries are involved in the diversified product development processes for commercial purposes. These products are mostly laminated jute fabric, geotextile, industrial textiles, etc.
This specific industry is also using age-old machinery to produce jute yarns and fabrics (except 2-3 countable industries). Due to the use of very old primitive machinery, the efficiency of the machines is not up to the mark (an average of 80%) 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 increasing day-by-day which proves to be a challenge for the industry. Apart from these, there is stiff competition with the synthetic industry for similar packaging materials, as the synthetic material are much cheaper in nature.
According to the Jute Packaging Norms and Legal Protection to Jute Cultivators the Parliament of India enacted the JPM (Jute Packaging Mandatory) Act, 1987 with the objective to protect the Jute industry. As per this act, the food grain and sugar produced are 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 the supply of 13 lakh bales or 4.33 lakh tons of gunny bags for the Rabi crop supply of 2012-13. The government said that with 10 mills remaining closed the jute industry is short in capacity by 1.5 lakh tons. Presently, it can produce 11 lakh tons of jute sacks/gunny bags.
Its installed capacity, however, is 15.02 lakh tons, and assuming an 83% utilization its stated capacity is 12.47 lakh tons. The industry earns a business of around Rs. 10,000 crores by selling its entire product 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% 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, the jute industry suffers a lot from different political interference, labor problems, and shortage of jute fiber supply due to low rainfall among other issues leading to challenges to the sustainability of the jute industry.
Sustainability and Opportunities in Jute Industry
Today with the advent of science, a lot of diversified products have been developed from jute and jute-based material, which has more cost-benefit ratio. The Indian Jute industry has been expanding really fast spanning a wide range of lifestyle consumer products, courtesy of 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 a luster with aesthetic appeal. Today with utmost versatility ranging from low-value geotextiles to high-value carpets, decorative, apparel, composites, upholstery furnishings, etc.
In the same line of development, Sengupta and Debnath, 2010 and 2012, documented jute-based products for upholstery applications. They also made a study wherein, comparable with commercial non-jute similar products have been made. Debnath et al., 2007a and 2007b, developed jute and hollow-polyester blended bulked yarn for warm fabrics like knitted sweaters, jackets, etc. They found that the bulkiness of the jute-polyester bulked yarn is superior to jute yarn.
One can look into the important properties of jute fiber since it has a huge diversifying potential. The advantages of jute include good insulating and antistatic properties, as well as having low thermal conductivity and moderate moisture regain. It includes acoustic insulating properties and manufactures no skin irritations.
Jute has the ability to be blended with other fibers, 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, jute’s biodegradable nature is suitable for the storage of food materials, where synthetics would be unsuitable.
Conclusions and Impending
The application of the jute area must be increased. India needs to work on quality by adopting new technologies (Debnath 2017a). 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 their eco-friendly property which has good prospects in the coming days.