Jute is a long, soft, shiny vegetable fiber that can be spun into coarse, strong threads. It is produced primarily from plants in the genus Corchorus, which was once classified with the family Tiliaceae, and more recently with Malvaceae. The primary source of the fiber is Corchorus olitorius, but it is considered inferior to Corchorus capsularis.
"Jute" is the name of the plant or fiber that is used to make burlap, hessian or gunny cloth.
Jute is one of the most affordable natural fibers in existence and it is second only to cotton in amount produced and variety of uses. Jute fibers are composed primarily of the plant materials cellulose and lignin. It falls into the bast fiber category (fiber collected from bast, the phloem of the plant, sometimes called the "skin") along with kenaf, industrial hemp, flax (linen), ramie, etc. The industrial term for jute fiber is raw jute. The fibers are off-white to brown, and 1–4 metres (3–13 feet) long. Jute is also called the golden fiber for its color and high cash value.
Jute plant needs a plain alluvial soil and standing water. The suitable climate for growing jute (warm and wet) is offered by the monsoon climate, during the monsoon season. Temperatures from 20˚C to 40˚C and relative humidity of 70%–80% are favourable for successful cultivation. Jute requires 5–8 cm of rainfall weekly, and more during the sowing time. Soft water is necessary for the jute production.
The jute fiber comes from the stem and ribbon (outer skin) of the jute plant. The fibers are first extracted by retting. The retting process consists of bundling jute stems together and immersing them in slow running water. There are two types of retting: stem and ribbon. After the retting process, stripping begins; women and children usually do this job. In the stripping process, non-fibrous matter is scraped off, then the workers dig in and grab the fibers from within the jute stem.
Jute is a rain-fed crop with little need for fertilizer or pesticides, in contrast to cotton's heavy requirements. Production is concentrated mostly in Bangladesh, as well as India's states of Assam, Bihar, and West Bengal. India is the world's largest producer of jute, but imported approximately 162,000 tonnes of raw fiber and 175,000 tonnes of jute products in 2011. India, Pakistan, and China import significant quantities of jute fiber and products from Bangladesh, as do the United Kingdom, Japan, United States, France, Spain, Ivory Coast, Germany and Brazil.