Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus L.) is a warm season, short-day, annual herbaceous plant originated from west Africa which has been cultivated since around 4000 B.C. Kenaf belongs to the Malvaceae, a family notable for both its economic and horticultural importance. In different parts of the world, kenaf has many other names such as mesta (India, Bengal), stockroot (south Africa), Java jute (Indonesia), and ambari (Taiwan), etc.
Kenaf has a high growth rate, rising to heights of 12-18 feet in about 4-5 month. Its yield of 6-10 tons (new varieties may reach 12 ton) of dry weight per acre per year are generally 3-5 times greater than the yield for Southern pine trees which can take from 7 years to reach harvestable size.
The fibers from kenaf can be classified into bast fibers which is about 35% the stalk dry weight and core fibers which comprises about 65% of the stalk dry weight.
Natural plant fibers are being increasingly used in manufacturing industrial products because of their renewable and biodegradable natures. Natural fiber-based products have been seen in industries like automotive, paper, construction, environmental cleaning, transforpation, and food, etc.
Following list some examples of products made from natural/kenaf plant fibers:
• paper pulp
• automotile interior panels
• composite with PP in polymer industry
• fibreglass substitute
• textile composite
• animal bedding
• particle board
• industrial absorbent materials
• soil-less potting mixes
• animal forage
• packing material
• organic filler for plastics
Despite its commercial and environmental advantages, the kenaf paper industry is as yet undeveloped. Due to significant industry start-up costs, smaller economies of scale and government subsidies to the pulp, paper and timber industries, kenaf paper is more expensive than virgin wood-based papers.
The global demand for natural fibers is increasing due to a greater demand for cleaner and greener industrial products. Companies like TOYOTA, NEC, and MATSUSHITA, to name just few – use Kenaf fibers in their advanced product lines.