Jute is a natural fiber also called The Golden Fiber for its golden luster. Jute fiber ranks next to cotton as the important natural fiber in terms of its usage, global consumption, production, and availability. It is the most versatile and cheapest raw material produced from the bast of the plant’s stem. Jute twine is highly flexible, low extensibility, and ensures better breathability of fabrics. Jute is 100% bio-degradable which is being used for various purposes like packaging, textile, non-textiles, and construction, and agriculture sectors. The jute industry has been rapidly growing from a wide range of lifestyle consumer products, for its versatility and eco-friendly character. Since ancient times, jute was cultivated in Asia and Africa, which provides cordage and weaving fiber from the stem and leaves.
Towards the end of the 18th century, the British East India Company discovered that jute could be a substitute for flax which is grown abundantly in India; it was a less expensive and better source of fiber mainly used for packaging. In 1793, the first dispatch of raw jute left from India became almost vital to almost every nation worldwide in less than two hundred years. Simple handlooms and hand spinning wheels were used by the weavers, who used to spin cotton yarns as well. In the early 20th century, the company started trading raw jute with Dundee’s Jute Industry, commonly known as The Jute Barons of Scotland. Margaret Donnelly 1 was the landowner in Dundee, and she set up the first jute mill in India. The rise of the jute industry in Dundee saw a corresponding increase in the production and export of raw jute from the Indian sub-continent, which was the sole supplier of this primary commodity. In the following three decades, the Indian jute industry had a remarkable experience in the rising of commanding leadership by 1939 with a total of 68,377 looms, which they focused mainly on the river Hooghly near Kolkata. After the Indian Independence in 1947, the jute map of the Indo-Bangla region experienced major changes due to the partition. Most of the jute-producing areas were in Bangladesh. Unfortunately, most of the jute mills remained in India. Due to which India aimed for self-sufficiency in raw jute to uphold their mills. Later, most of their jute mills in India were taken over by the Marwari businessmen.
Jute is a crop that thrives for rain and sunshine. Temperatures ranging from 70–100 °F and relative humidity of 70%–90% are favorable for successful cultivation. Jute requires 2–3 inches of rainfall weekly, with extra needed during the sowing period. The Indo-Bangla jute belt has the perfect natural bounty of the right kind of rain and sunshine, which continues to be the major producer of jute with the lowest investment. Ecotype of Corchorus Capsularis and Olitorius is the common type of jute plant grown in India. When the yield of the crop is directly proportionate to the height, faster growth is a desirable trait. A good crop grows up to 300 to 360 cm tall and height reached with 100 to 120 days. India is the largest producer of jute goods in the world, while Bangladesh is the largest in the cultivation of jute plants. Jute has a very important role in the Indian monopoly as it contributed 56.17% of the world output. The jute industry also contributes to exports to the tune of nearly Rs.1502 crore (2011-12) annually, which employs about 0.37 million industrial workers and livelihood to 0.14 million persons in the tertiary and allied activities. Nearly 4.0 million people derive their livelihood from jute cultivation (source: Ministry of Textiles). In India, the cultivation of jute is mainly done in eastern states such as West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Tripura, Orissa, and Meghalaya; southeastern regions like Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts. Srikakulam is a leading producer of jute fiber, which has two large-scale units in Rajam and Kotturu Mandal. Factories at Ponduru, Chiprapalle, Rajam, Vizianagaram, and Chilakapalem purchase raw jute from farmers for crafting products. Thus, adding value to jute and empowering women in rural areas by providing employment.
Jute fiber is used to produce bags, jute travel bags, ladies' handbags, gift folders, and clothes. The production of jute twine unit involves an investment of INR 25 lakhs. The women were trained in techniques such as macramé and braiding using jute yarn. Bejipuram is the chief craft cluster near Srikakulam, having various organizations and NGOs providing employment to the rural families and creating new crafts with their help. One such organized society in Bejipuram is called as Vivekananda Youth Club. This organization is operated for 15yrs, providing employment and capital to this industry. Mr. N. Srinivas Rao, a senior artisan, working for over 15yrs says, this organization is involved in marketing the jute products at various exhibitions across India. They have participated in exhibitions in most of the capital cities in India by the Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), Ministry of Textiles, GOI. This organization does its business through a society called Gogi Kiranalu, which is divided into 18 groups of 325 women employees situated in different villages. The raw materials are bought from Rajam, GMR Jute Mill, and farmers who cultivate jute in the vicinity. Artisans are involved in making braided crafts, machine bags, weaving, and dying. Jute is bleached until they get the natural colour of jute. Later it is sent for dyeing with natural and chemical dyes as per the requirement of products like swing, decorative items, pen stand, handbags, carpets, etc. Design institutes like National Institute of Design (NID) and National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) conducted eight workshops, helping them by teaching various new designs and new technology. The various organizations like Jute Manufacturers Development Council (JMDC), Development Commission of Handicraft, MSME, NABARD, and District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) invite them to conduct exhibitions to help them for marketing and development purpose.