Trade and markets

Jute and hard fibres projects

Future Fibres Initiative
The Future Fibres Initiative sets out to give much needed support to sisal and other hard fibres. Natural fibres are increasingly being recognized as a favorable substitute to synthetics which use unsustainable inputs. Aside from technical and cost advantages, such products have the added attraction of meeting growing consumer awareness with respect to environmental, sustainability and social standards

Intergovernmental Group on Hard Fibres
The IGG on Hard Fibres is a designated International Commodity Body (ICB) under the rules of the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC). In this capacity, it promotes and supervises projects on hard fibres.

Under implementation

Cleaner integral utilisation of sisal waste for biogas and biofertilisers
The objective is to establish the technical and economic viability of the production of gas and fertiliser from sisal waste. Activities are to include the construction of a pilot demonstration facility to produce biogas, which will be used to produce electricity, and the formulation of a national strategy for sound and environmentally-friendly utilisation of sisal gas for energy production. Utilisation of waste from bio-gas for the production of fertiliser is to be studied. The sisal waste to electricity plant [the first of its kind in the world] was inaugurated at the Katani Limited estate of Hale by H.E. President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania on 16th July 2008.

Pilot facility for efficient coir processing and quality control
The objective of the project is to undertake operational research and development for improved fibre extraction techniques and for the development of standards to be used for quality control practices. The project will set up a pilot facility, demonstrating optimum processing practices which can be adopted by the small-scale fibre processing units which are dominant in the sector. Improved production (increased quantities and higher quality) is to be matched with improvements in the working conditions and production environment currently prevalent, ultimately resulting in higher levels of profitability at the bottom-end of the coir production chain. The project is executed by the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI), of Sri Lanka, and the Supervisory Body is the IGG on Hard Fibres. The total cost of the project is $730 765, of which the CFC is to provide $480 373. Project documents were signed late in 2004, but the start-up of the project had been delayed while arrangements between the institutions in Sri Lanka were finalised, and the project was officially launched in October 2005.In August 2008, the pilot mill is near to completion. A study on technological and socio-economic conditions in the Sri Lankan Coir Industry was completed, and a management programme for millers has been undertaken.

Sisial development: sisal fibre replacing asbestos in cement composites
The three-year project is designed to establish at a pilot level the technical and economic viability of the use of sisal fibre in the production of construction materials for the building industry. The emphasis is on assessing the potential for the replacement of asbestos fibres thus far frequently used in the building materials industry in Brazil. The project will determine both the technical as well as the financial feasibility of producing sisal-cement composites. The main project activities will focus on establishing the technical parameters of various mixes of sisal fibre and cement to meet the minimum performance criteria set by the regulatory authorities for products in the building industry.

Preparation work to result in three papers was undertaken in 2007, (a study on the potential market for sisal-cement products; a "state-of-the-art" technical study; and a report on initial laboratory studies) but reports on this work have not been completed. These reports, when complete, are to be presented to a workshop.

Fast track projects

These are smaller, low budget projects, very limited in scope and with a duration generally of only a few months.

Symposium on natural fibres
20 October 2008
This one-day symposium was held at FAO Headquarters in Rome as a lead-up activity to the International Year of Natural Fibres.

Operationalisation of a pilot facility for a continuous sisal fibre extraction/production process
This project complementa the former project "Product and Market Development for Sisal and Henequen Products". It was found in the original project that the hammer mill can produce fibre of adequate quality when two passes in the equipment are allowed; continuous operations is, however, not possible utilizing just one hammer mill. The scope of the supplementary fast-track project is to construct a second hammer mill and the necessary ancillary equipment to allow for two passes, continuous operations, in order to consolidate the results achieved so far and in particular to test the reliability of the system and to establish wear and tear of running parts, power consumption, water consumption and labor requirement.

Completed projects

This project had two major components: (i) development of improved fibre extraction equipment; this included the development of improved hand tools, as well as motorised decorticating and tuxying machines. (ii) Identification of high yielding disease resistant varieties in the Philippines.

Project activities commenced in the Philippines in 1999. In the last half of 2003, arrangements were made to extend the work on fibre extraction to Ecuador. A workshop to disseminate results of the project was held in the Philippines, in October 2004. The final report of the project was under preparation in October 2005.

The project resulted in the design construction and improvement of fibre extraction equipment, but this component may have been more successful if there had been more dialogue with the potential end-users. In particular, applicability of the machines is limited, in the case of the tuxying machine, by the expense and labour-requirements of its operation, and in the case of the decorticating machine, by its size and construction cost, which limit its usefulness in the small-scale farming of the Philippines. It may prove to be more useful in Ecuador. While the project generated information on disease tolerance and yield performance of a number of varieties in different regions, it has not resulted in clear recommendations for farmers.

The objective of this project is to demonstrate the potential of the application of a specific technology for the production of high quality fibreboards, by making use of the high content of lignin in coir fibre. The project is being executed by Institute ATO DLO in the Netherlands.

The first phase of the project, laboratory-scale work in the Netherlands, was completed early in the year 2002, in which a simple process was used to produce a board successfully from coconut husk, and its mechanical properties have been tested.

The second phase of the project involves producing boards on a larger pilot scale in the Philippines. As activities move away from the laboratory, factors such as the effect of humidity and climate and of husk storage time are being investigated, together with the effect of prolonged soaking on the strength of the board. Later activities were directed towards piloting a small but commercial-type continuous production process.

The project successfully demonstrated, on a pilot scale, that binderless boards of good technical qualities can be manufactured from coconut husk. Further work would be needed to demonstrate that these boards can economically be produced on a commercial scale.

The objective of the project was to contribute to demand for coir fibre, coir yarn and coir door mats, mattings and carpets by improving their competitive position with synthetics in the consuming countries through the development of improved processes for (i) the development of cost-efficient technology for drying coir fibre and yarn; (ii) softening, bleaching and fast colour dying of fibre and yarn; and (iii) fast colour printing of coir products.

An international seminar was held in India in December 1997, and a set of proceedings, Wet Processing of Coir Fibres, was published by Central Coir Research Institute. Two local field days were held in Sri Lanka to demonstrate the prototype dryer. This project concluded with the publication in 2002 of the technical report: Coir Processing Technologies as CFC Technical Paper Number 6.

International Symposium on coir - Sri Lanka 2003
The objectives of the Convention were to provide a comprehensive overview of the global coir industry and to review the needs for technology and market development to improve industry competitiveness, then to develop the outline of an action program for joint research and development involving industry, research institutions and government.

The comparative advantages of sisal, coir and jute in geotextiles
This was implemented under the fast track facility and involved a study to identify those areas of application in which natural fibre geotextiles could compete with polymeric geotextiles on both technical and economic grounds.
Comparative Advantages of Sisal Coir and Jute Geotextiles
CFC Technical Paper No 31, 2004

Composite applications using coir fibres in Sri Lanka
This fast-track project has the objective of reviewing the technological and economic potential of coir-based composite products. It commenced late in 2002, and was completed in 2003.

Seminar on alternative applications for sisal and henequen
This one-day seminar which was held in December 2000 as part of the previous Joint Meeting of the IGG on Hard Fibres and the IGG on Jute, Kenaf and Allied Fibres.

Product and market development of sisal and henequen products
The main objectives of this project were to establish the feasibility of using sisal fibre in paper; develop new varieties of sisal that will be suitable for various end-uses; and develop processes for commercial use of sisal wastes.

Product and market development of high value added coir products
The objective of this project was to assist producing countries to diversify and expand production and trade of high value-added coir products, particularly rubberized coir, coir geo-textiles and coir dust.