Flax Fibre  
     
     
  World Flax Production Map  
 

FLAX:

Flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) is probably the oldest textile fibre known to mankind. It has been used since ancient times for the production of linen cloth. The first well documented application is the use of the linen fabric by the Egyptians to wrap their mummies. Linen fabric was found in graves in Egypt dating from before 5000 B.C. At that time the Egyptians were able to produce yarns and fabrics of a fineness that is nowadays unobtainable.

The soils most suitable for flax, besides the alluvial kind, are deep loams, and containing a large proportion of organic matter. It is often found just above the waterline in cranberry bogs. Heavy clays are unsuitable, as are soils of a gravelly or dry sandy nature. Farming flax requires few fertilizers or pesticides. Within 8 weeks of sowing, the plant will reach 10–15 cm in height, and will grow several centimeters per day under its optimal growth conditions, reaching 70–80 cm within fifteen days.

 Presently two types of flax are grown, fibre flax and seed flax. Fibre flax is optimized for the production of thin strong fibres. Seed flax gives coarser fibres, but far more linseed, since this plant does not have one straight stem, but the stem divides towards various flower heads. Flax grows in moderate climates and is presently cultivated among others in large parts of Western and Eastern Europe, in Canada and the USA and in Russia. World-wide approximately 5 million hectare flax is grown. In the traditional flax countries like the Netherlands, Belgium and France, the main focus of the flax production lies still on the apparel and home textile market. The main output from this production chain is the long fibres for spinning yarn. For this purpose flax fibres are isolated from the plant via processes known as retting, breaking, scotching and hackling. Short fibres are produced as an inevitable by-product. In the new flax (and hemp) countries processing of the fibres is almost entirely done by the ‘lin-total’ concept, in which long and short fibres are not separated. In 1999 in the EU approximately 60 to 70 kton of short fibres was produced, these found their application in specialty pulps (45%) in the apparel and home textiles (20%) in composites for the automotive industry (6%, 4 kton) and in various other applications, of which especially the thermal insulation materials were expected to grow significantly.

 Over the millennia flax has always been used as the basis for fabric, not only for clothing but also for sails and tents and it was the all important fibre used for war outfit until 1950, after which synthetic fibres took over. The flax industry has been declining ever since 1955, after which the competition of synthetic fibres became stronger and stronger in different application areas. Only quite recently flax is blended with synthetic fibres to combine the advantages of both different materials, and the apparel market has once more become a large buyer for the flax industry. However, flax and especially the production of long fibres, has in this way become very dependent on the fashion industry. Consequently the flax industry has become a very cyclical business, and the industry is searching for new, preferably high value, steady markets.

 

The world flax production map and available statistics on ramie is given below:  
 

 

 

     
     
  Flax & Tow Production Graph  
     
 

 
     
     
  Flax & Tow Production (‘000 MT)  
 

Country

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

World (Total)

1013.105

1008.656

661.958

541.087

527.851

382.538

315.583

315.084

China

669.58

695.204

415.265

290.458

257.421

147.51

116.94

126.964

Czech Republic

17.801

13.474

8.757

1.868

0.539

0.461

0.033

0.037

France

95

96

92.4

95

98

74

66.97

52.4

Russian Federation

57.79

55.89

36.11

47.49

52.48

52.56

35.22

43.45

Belarus

56.565

50.43

29.183

38.828

60.894

46.893

45.782

46.034

Belgium

22.215

18.505

16.5

14.17

12.17

13.33

11.52

8.973

Argentina

2.224

2.291

2

2.1

2.032

2.276

2.015

2.323

Bulgaria

0.209

0.2

0

0.1

0.127

0.11

0.088

0.098

Chile

2.4

2.5

2.6

3.292

3.186

2.8

2.479

2.857

Egypt

10

10.5

9

9.514

8.228

8.274

8.3

8.3

Estonia

0.108

0.2

0.1

0.129

0.126

0.082

0.069

0.066

Italy

0.291

0.281

0.278

0.5

0.499

0.494

0.414

0.393

Latvia

1.6

1.2

1.5

1.1

0.2

0.1

0.042

0.3

Lithuania

5.8

3.4

0.3

0.4

0.1

0.031

0.009

0.015

Netherlands

27.4

26.8

22.4

14.2

13.331

14.597

10.519

7.954

Poland

1.439

1.97

0.563

0.502

0.708

0.422

0.197

0.249

Slovakia

0.407

0.28

0.069

0.04

0

0

0

0

Ukraine

16.2

12.7

5.3

3.8

3

1.2

0.4

0.8

United Kingdom

25.596

16.364

18

17.5

14.712

17.294

14.499

13.776

 
 
     
     
     

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