An estimated 40 million households (households vary in size from an average of 3 in China to 15 in some countries of Africa) were engaged in natural fibre production during 2019. This estimate from the Discover Natural Fibres Initiative (DNFI) includes some 29 million households producing cotton, 6 million producing jute, kenaf and allied fibres, about 5 million wool producers, 1 million involved in production of coir, and another 1 million involved in other natural fibres, such as abaca, hemp, sisal and silk. When family labour, hired workers and employees in associated service industries such as transportation and storage are considered, total employment in the agricultural segments of natural fibre value chains probably reaches about 200 million people per year, or between 2 percent and 3 percent of the world’s population (all estimates are rounded).
World production of natural fibres was about 33 million tonnes in 2019, little changed from 2018. Natural fibre production has been in a range between 29 million tonnes and 34 million tonnes during the past decade.
The value of production at the farm level was between $50 billion and $60 billion during 2019, including some $30 billion for cotton, $10 billion for wool and approximately $2 billion each for jute and silk. The value of world production of natural fibres was about $60 billion in 2018, but prices in the natural fibre complex declined in 2019 from above-average levels in 2018.
World production of all fibres is estimated to have reached 110 million tonnes in 2019. Natural fibres accounted for 30 percent of the total and manmade fibres the balance.
In 2019, oil-based fibres such as polyester, acrylic, and nylon accounted for an estimated 69 million tons of production, including 50 million tons of filament and 20 million tons of staple. Production of cellulosic manmade fibres reached 7 million tonnes.