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Jute Report, 1877

Jute Report, 1877 Very little information is available about the cultivation of jute on a commercial scale before 1873. A commission on Jute was formed in 1873 with HC Kerr as its chairman. The commission asked for reports from the district officers about the beginning and spread of jute cultivation. The commission published its findings in 1877 as 'Report on the Cultivation of, and Trade in, Jute in Bengal.

According to the Report, the cultivation of jute had been gradually spreading in Rangpur for the 'last 25 years or thereabouts'. In Bogra jute was being cultivated 'since about the year 1847'. In Pabna the cultivation had been progressing for about 25 years. In Dhaka jute began to be cultivated from 1865 and in Mymensingh for the last 25 years. In Tippera and Noakhali jute was being cultivated for the 'last 20 years'. In Faridpur the increase had been marked within the 'last 9 or 10 years' and in Bakerganj within the 'last 15 years'. In 24 Paraganas jute had been growing for the 'last 10 or 12 years' while in Hughli and Burdwan its cultivation was started as late as 1872. The reports of the district officers suggest that in Bengal jute growing on a large scale began in the 1840s.

Table 1  Estimated acreage under Jute, 1830/31 to 1879.

Years Acres
1830/31-1834/35 2,278
1835/36-1839/40 8,357
1840/41-1844/45 15,842
1845/46-1849/50 19,367
1850/51-1854/55 48,769
1855/56-1859/60 62,315
1860/61-1864/65 182,427
1865/66-1869/70 217,386
1870-1874 418,481
1875-1879 486,031

Source  MW Ali, Jute in the Agrarian History of Bengal, 1870-1914, Rahshahi, 1998.

The above table contains the estimate of total acres under jute from 1830/31 to 1879 in quinquennia. It shows that in the first quinquennium the area under jute cultivation was small-only 2,278 acres. In the second quinquennium it increased to 8,357 acres. From then on the area under jute began to increase steadily. Between the second and fifth quinquennia the percentage of increase was about 500 per cent. In the last quinquennium the acreage rose to 486,031. Between the fifth and the last quinquennia the increase was about 900 per cent, with serious short-term recession.

Internal Trade in Jute Raw jute passed through four stages of markets on its way from producers to consumers - primary or village markets known as hats, secondary or mufassil markets, the Calcutta terminal market in the third stage and finally, the Calcutta export market. Farias and beparis (petty traders) bought jute from peasants in hats. They sold jute to merchants of secondary markets, situated at important places on trunk roads and at steamer and rail stations. The merchants, in turn, disposed of their purchase to balers at the Calcutta terminal market. The balers sold jute to shippers at the Calcutta export market who exported jute to foreign countries.

Foreign Trade in Jute up to 1879 Trial shipments of jute fibre were made in the last decade of the eighteenth century. But the beginning of the commercialisation of jute should be dated from 1835 when the mechanical spinning of jute was successfully accomplished in Dundee, which became the cradle of the jute industry. This success laid the foundation of jute industry throughout the world. Jute exports increased in the years following 1835.

Table 2  Total Exports in 000’s cwt.

Years Exports Percentage of change
1830/31-1834/35 25 ---
1835/36-1839/40 91 264%
1840/41-1844/45 193 90.10%
1845/46-1849/50 212 22.54%
1850/51-1854/55 535 152.35%
1855/56-1859/60 684 27.85%
1860/61-1864/65 2003 192.83%
1865/66-1869/70 2389 19.17%
1870-1874 5,291 121.65%
1875-1879 5,341 0.94%

Source MW Ali, Jute in the Agrarian History of Bengal, 1870-1914, Rahshahi, 1998.

The annual average export in the quinquennium, 1835-36 to 1839-40 was 91,000 cwt, an increase of 264 per cent from the annual average of the previous quinquennium. The rate of expansion of exports in the third and forth quinquennia slowed down, followed by a steep rise in the fifth. It went down again in the sixth quinquennium, but went up in the seventh, followed by a reduction in the eighth. The rate of increase was again high in the ninth quinquennium but slowed down sharply in the last.

The low price of jute relative to flax, the Crimean War (1854 - 56), the American Civil War (1861 - 65) and the tremendous growth of world trade in 1860s contributed to the large increase in jute trade up to 1877. [M Wazed Ali]

Bibliography HC Kerr, Report of the Cultivation of, and Trade in, Jute in Bengal, Calcutta, 1877; MW Ali, Jute in the Agrarian History of Bengal, 1870-1914, Rajshahi, 1998.