Assam plans to increase the cultivation of ramie, a valuable textile fibre, from 100 hectares to 1,000 hectares in the next five years.
Ramie, one of the oldest natural fibres known to man, was used to drape mummies in Egypt in ancient time.
The plant is native to Southeast Asia, including China and the Philippines.
In the Northeast, particularly in Assam, ramie is grown because of its congenial climatic condition. The fibre is used in traditional dresses and fishing nets in Assam.
“A plan has now been adopted to increase the area under cultivation from less than 100 to 1,000 hectares in Assam in the next five years,” a senior scientist in-charge, Ramie Research Station, Barpeta, A.K. Sharma said.
The Ramie Research Station is a sub-station of the Central Research Institute for Jute and Allied Fibres, Barrackpore, in West Bengal.
Sharma said the idea was to make Assam ramie a household name by increasing the cultivation area and also by marketing.
“The state government should take adequate measures in that direction,” Sharma said.
Apart from its textile uses, in recent times, the demand of ramie fibre in global market has also increased because of its eco-friendly image and very high tensile strength, which is appropriate for industrial usages.
“China leads in the production of ramie and processing worldwide,” Sharma said.
Sources said neighbouring country like China was doing very good business (more than $1 billion per year), in India, ramie was still used at the domestic level. Till now, it has failed to capture the textile market as well as industrial scale production.
Recently, a team of senior officials from the National Jute Board, Jute Commissioner’s Office and the Indian Jute Industries Research Association visited the Ramie Research Station.
According to the officials, the post-harvesting technological developments are the prime focus of research agencies associated with it.
The officials also observed the progress of the technology validation-cum-field trial programme on eco-friendly degumming technology of ramie conducted by the Indian Jute Industries Research Association in collaboration with the Ramie Research Station under the Jute Technology Mission.
The officials said though ramie was still restricted to domestic use in India, there was an urgent need to explore it in the industrial sector as a blend with other natural fibres for utilisation in different forms.
The Ramie Research Station is trying to expand and promote ramie farming through public-private partnership mode.