Jute is a very strong natural fiber with a wide variety of uses. Second only to cotton in its amount of yearly production, jute is a component in a number of industrial, culinary and manufacturing processes. In home decor, jute is often found woven into carpets, drapes, upholstery and rugs as well as textiles such as accent pillows and throws. Jute is also biodegradable, which is why it's often used to wrap young plants outdoors. Known as the Golden Fiber, jute, in it's finished forms, is more commonly known as Burlap or Hessian.
Jute is produced in many areas around the world. The fiber is derived from plants in the Corchorus genus, specifically Corchorus capsularis, which is used to produce White Jute and Corchorus olitorius, from which Tossa Jute is derived. These fibers are made from the skin of the plant's stem, while the leaves have a number of culinary uses, particularly in Nigeria where the leaves of the Tossa Jute plant are used to make soup.
India is the largest jute-producing nation, creating nearly 2 million tons of raw fiber every year. The plants have low fertilizer needs and the fiber that they produce is 100% bio-degradable, making it a sustainable as well as inexpensive option for manufacturing. Other major production areas include Bangladesh which produces only slightly less of the plant fiber than India. Jute has figured significantly in the history of the country since the 17th century when the British East India Company began trading in raw jute. By the end of the 19th century British farmers had begin emigrating to Bangladesh to open farms and factories. The trade boomed during WWI when more than 1 billion jute sandbags were exported to the various allied fronts. As of 2011, more than 3.5 million tons of Jute are produced annually worldwide.
Due to its inexpensive cultivation and sheer number of uses, jute is considered the second most important vegetable fiber, behind cotton. Various levels of processing are required to exploit every possible use of the plant. At the lower levels jute is used to make coarse cloth and sacks, often for wrapping bales of cotton or for use in sandbags. It is also used alone or combined with other fibers to create a variety of strong rope grades and twine. When separated out into fine threads, jute fibers can also be woven into a form of imitation silk.
Beyond its simpler uses, jute has become a fixture in several industries including furniture, bedding, paper and even automobiles. Jute is used to make a variety of nonwovens - fabrics held together in sheet or web structures by mechanical, thermal, or chemical bonding. In this form, jute has become a primary component in the production of car interiors.
In home decor goods, jute fibers are often found in curtains, carpets, area rugs, hessian cloth, and upholstery fabric. Linoleum tiles often have jute backing. Hessian cloth, one of the lighter fabrics made from Jute, is used for bags as well as wall coverings and is one of the more common forms of Jute found in home furnishings.
In recent years, the prevalence of jute has been challenged by a number of synthetic fibers. However, as environmental concerns continue to drive a movement towards sustainability in manufacturing, Jute, as an easily replenishable resource resulting in naturally biodegradable products is regaining its popularity. Currently, jute fibres are also being used to make paper and may see expanded employment in that area.
As a food source, jute leaves are rich in vitamins including iron, calcium, beta-Carotene, and Vitamin C. Popular in a number of countries, Jute is prevalent in West African diets; called, Ewedu in Nigeria and fakohoy in Mali. It appears as well as a component in dishes made in the northern Phillipines.