Catwalk-style grain bags: India’s battle to rename jute | Gallery News

From Christian Dior boutiques to royal wedding gifts, jute grows in popularity around the world as demand for alternatives to plastic skyrockets, with experts predicting bag industry alone to be worth more than $ 3 billion dollars by 2024.

India is desperate to capitalize on this shift in consumption and seize the opportunity to revive its declining industry, expanding it into trendy sacks and jute bags.

Also known as sackcloth, burlap, or burlap, the fiber is hailed by environmentalists because its cultivation can help capture carbon and it uses fewer natural resources than cotton.

” Hectare [2.47 acres] from a jute plant can absorb up to 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide and release 11 tonnes of oxygen in a season, thus reducing greenhouse effects, ”said Swati Singh Sambyal, sustainability and economy expert circular based in New Delhi.

She added that production only takes about four months and requires “minimal water and fertilizer” compared to cotton.

During British rule, the jute industry was a key part of the Indian economy and the fabric was exported around the world, but by the 1990s it was struggling, unable to compete with cheaper and synthetic substitutes. lower production costs for farmers in neighboring Bangladesh.

Today India is trying to promote jute as a fabric for a sustainable future, with the government issuing a mandate that all grain and 20 percent of sugar should be packed in jute bags.

Leading local designers such as Ashish Soni and Pawan Aswani also use jute blends for their fashion lines.

But critics warn that the country’s dilapidated factories and outdated farming practices do not match such ambitions.

“India can meet global demand, but for that, two things are necessary: ​​upgrading the skills of the population…

There are around 70 jute factories in the state of West Bengal, some of which were established in the 19th century primarily to produce coarse bags for packaging coffee and food grains, but the machinery and production methods have changed little. since.

At Meghna Jute Mills, hundreds of barefoot workers work in a vast, drab room covered in fine fibrous dust for eight-hour shifts, 24 hours a day.

“Jute has a potentially huge international market,” company president Supriya Das said as loud machines unrolled long strands of shimmering yarn behind him.

“If the machines are high-tech, we can produce good yarn. For a diversified end use, the quality of the fiber must improve. The industry will only be viable if we introduce value-added products like home decor and rugs.

Almost all of the world’s jute is grown in this region or in Bangladesh, due to the favorable humid climate and the availability of cheap labor.

According to a recent report by Research and Markets, the global jute bag market reached a value of $ 2.07 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow to $ 3.1 billion by 2024 as consumers seek alternatives to the market. single-use plastic.

The appeal of the material has been bolstered by brands such as Dior making jute sandals and stars such as the Duchess of Sussex wearing jute shoes and using burlap gift bags for guests attending her wedding. with Prince Harry.

Kar said India should take the opportunity to invest in its industry and manufacture various jute products such as rugs, lamps, shoes and shopping bags.

Indian scientists developed high-yielding varieties of jute to exploit this renewed interest, Kar explained, but unskilled labor and outdated farming practices meant that had yet to translate into returns. economic.

“This is a major cause of concern for us,” he added.

The coronavirus pandemic has also thwarted hopes of restoring the industry’s lost glory – several factories have closed and the closures have caused shortages in labor and raw materials.

Environmentalists insist that jute has vast economic and green potential, especially as consumers voice concerns about fast fashion and more countries introduce legislation banning single-use plastic.

Every part of the jute plant can be used: the outer layer for fiber, the woody stem for pulp, and the leaves can be cooked and eaten, Sambyal explained.

The United Nations Environment Program has said the planet is “drowning in plastic pollution”, with around 300 million tonnes of plastic waste produced each year.

India generates 3.3 million metric tons of plastic waste every year, according to a 2018-19 report from the Central Pollution Control Board.

Back at Meghna Mills, factory bosses are hopeful that if authorities invest, they can rebrand and restart jute for the 21st century.

Das said: “Jute has a great future. It can bring a lot of valuable foreign currency to the country, so the government needs to focus on this sector. “

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