By Pallavi Dani:
India has a rich culture of arts and crafts that has evolved through the centuries into a flourishing trade. One of the oldest industries that has gained a lot of attention and popularity in recent years marked by rising awareness on global warming is the jute industry. The advent of jute production and export on a large scale started during the British rule with the setting up of the first jute mill in West Bengal. From then on, the industry has grown to a commendable size comprising of 76 jute mills mostly concentrated in West Bengal with a few in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tripura and Chhattisgarh.
The Indian Jute Industry today, accounts for a turnover of Rs. 6500 crore annually, contributing to exports to the tune of nearly Rs. 1000 crore and alone provides direct employment to approximately 0.26 million people, while about 4 million people are associated indirectly to the industry.
The excessive use of plastics in the Indian market stalled the demand for jute for some time but it is back on track with the growing consciousness towards the environment in recent years. Jute has been reinvented from its traditional avatar of being used in making sacks for storing grains in the agriculture sector to making stylish accessories for home dÃ©cor and personal use. Jute is no more just the rough golden fabric we are so familiar with. With the utilisation of advanced technology, very fine quality and soft jute is being produced, which is being used in t-shirts and hand bags. Other jute products that are finding market in the domestic as well as global landscapes are wall hangings, baskets, upholsteries, bags, rags, carpets, hangings, footwear, coasters, jewellery, show pieces, etc.
Though there is a rising demand for jute products globally, its supply management is still in the nascent stage in India with the producers following the traditional methods of manufacturing and distribution despite a highly competitive global market. Jute industry in India has emerged as a huge, decentralised and unorganised industry which is one of the major challenges in the path of its growth.
Costly products and high export prices poses a threat to the Indian jute industry from the neighbouring jute producing countries. The government of India has recognised the huge potential and contribution of jute industry to the overall economic development of the country and has introduced many policies and schemes to promote and help its advancement. Workshops and fairs are organised across the country to showcase the ingenuity and skills of jute artisans and develop a market for their products. The evolution of jute industry in the current scenario is only possible with the introduction of proper management and marketing strategies to support the rich and diverse craft. This eco-friendly and highly sustainable fibre will not only help the economy but also give us an alternative to environmentally harmful materials such as plastics.