India continues to be the largest producer of the jute goods contributing 35 per cent of the world’s total output. Jute goods earn about Rs.600 crores in foreign exchange. The industry employs a workforce of over 2.50 lakhs and nearly four million people depend on jute farming and the industry, directly or indirectly.
It continues to labour-intensive with the wage bill accounting for 35 per cent of the production costs and the share of raw materials at 40 per cent. Jute is environment-friendly and is also a renewable resource. The industry is facing tough competition from the synthetics and its export market is drying up. The future of the industry lies in popularising the use of jute in non-traditional products like fine and blended yarn, geo-jute, decorative fabrics, home textiles, durries, rugs, hand and shopping bags, soft luggage bags etc.
History and Development
The history of jute industry in India dates back to 1854 when the first jute mill was started at Rishra, 20 km north of Kolkata by Mr. George Auckland. Due to favourable conditions of raw material, coal and indigenous labour the industry thrived well and by 1910 the output of jute manufactures of India surpassed the United Kingdom.
The rise of agricultural production in North and South America and Australia made great demand for jute goods in the world market. The two World Wars also gave boost up to the industry. Consequently, the number of jute mills and looms rose from 11 and 6,700 respectively in 1885 to 116 and 65,537 respectively in 1947.
The partition in 1947 led to the transfer of 80 per cent of the jute growing area to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) leaving out all jute mills in India. Hence, there was acute shortage of raw materials for the mills.
In order to meet this crisis various programmes of intensive and extensive cultivation were undertaken in the first two plans. As a result, production rose to 4.1 million bales in 1960-61 and 10.9 bales in 1985-86.
In 1959, there were 112 mills but due to the shortage of raw materials and shortfall in foreign demand many mills were closed down. So much so that by the end of 1997 the number of jute mills fell down to 69. Of these mills 55 were in West Bengal, 4 in Andhra Pradesh 3 each in U.P. and Bihar and 1 each in Assam, Orissa, Tripura and Madhya Pradesh. In addition there were 24 registered jute twine units with a capacity of 71,000 tones. The total capacity of these mills was 13.25 lakh tones in 1980-81. The industry had a total loom age of 69,199 in 1966 which fell down to 44,200 in 1980.
Every jute mill is an integrated unit consisting of both spinning and weaving sections. The products of the industry include gunny bags, canvas, pack- sheets, jute webbing, cotton-jute bagging, paper lined hessians, hessian cloth, carpets, rugs, carpet backing, cordage and twines etc.