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Content archived on 2024-04-19



The general objective of the EuroKenaf demonstration project was to evaluate the economic and technical feasibility of using kenaf constituents for industrial applications, through investigation of the complete chain from farm to end product, at semi-industrial scale. To do this, a series of linked activities (seed production, farming, harvesting, transport and storage, separation, pulping, paper-making, board production and new uses) were investigated together with economic studies. As a result, at the end of the project, the viability of kenaf as a component of European agribusiness has been established, although certain processing aspects need to be improved.

Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus), a fibrous plant in the Malvaceae family, has long been used for a variety of purposes (string, sacks, etc.). Recently countries in various parts of the world have been investigating the prospects of using Kenaf as a source of cellulose (for pulp, paper and board). The objective of this project is to demonstrate the feasibility of Kenaf cultivation (seed and straw production) in Europe (25 firms in six Member States are participating) and of applications in the non food industries for the various constituents of the stem (long fibre and short fibre) employing various methods to produce cellulose pulp and paper, etc.) or fibre board or particle board. This project is intended to reach conclusions on the optimum uses for this raw material with a view to reducing the EC's heavy deficit in such cellulose-based products.

Another objective is to study new uses of other constituents of the Kenaf plant such as the leaves and other molecules offering a high added value, with a view to defining, demonstrating and verifying the form in which these constituents should be used in various industries (chemical, pharmaceuticals, etc.). This three-year project is subdivided into chapters explaining the activities to be carried out at each stage, the members of the Eurokenaf European Economic Interest Grouping which will carry them out and the reasons for the budget appropriations needed to complete the project.
Although the technical viability of different types of kenaf production has been demonstrated or refuted during the project, a number of economic aspects still remain to be evaluated in order to decide on promotion of kenaf farming in European countries.
The final reports from several Demonstration projects were presented to National Representatives and others at a symposium held in Paris in March 1996. Reports included that from the European Economic Interest Group (EEIG), known as EUROKENAF which was set up with Spanish, Greek, Italian and Portuguese partners to investigate the potential of kenaf as a fibre crop in the European Union. The project covered the whole chain from field to factory. The first objective was to establish and optimise growth procedures in various European locations. The second, which proved more difficult, was to develop cost-effective, technically-sound harvesting and processing methods; a task only recently completed. Once the material is available at a reasonable price, it can be used for pulp, paper and board making. In addition, a number of novel uses as reinforcing fibre were identified. The technical viability of the whole chain has been established. However, economics remain problematic. To improve these requires further improvements between the farm and factory; including cutting, decorticating (fibre separation), storing, transport (bale density) and bark chipping.


To reach this position, a wide range of closely interrelated activities throughout the projected chain of production and use have been investigated in a number of countries. The first stages of activities were centred on agricultural production (seed production as well as raw fibre material for processing). This was followed by a stage intended to transform the raw kenaf material into an industrially usable form, and more specifically to separate the different stem components (long and short fibres, pith). The next step was to review a wide range of applications in terms of industrial production of paper and pulp and wood panels. Novel, or alternative, uses were also investigated. As a result, it is hoped to establish an economic plan that will cover all aspects of the kenaf chain, enabling it to be established as a new European crop.


Activities included:

- the use of different strains of kenaf in order to establish the most appropriate locations, from the point of land and climate, for the production of seed in Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal; establishment of numerous trial plots in the participating countries;

- optimisation of cost effectiveness;

- separation of the different types of stem fibres;

- studies of different pulping and paper processes (including blends with wood pulps covering almost the entire spectrum of paper products);

- production of fibreboard or chipboard;

- new uses, particularly as components in construction materials based on plaster or cement.


As a substitute, kenaf pulp can be incorporated in paper at up to 25% without diminishing the physical or mechanical characteristics of the paper, while increasing the brightness and bulk index with no significant impact on the running of the paper machines. As a reinforcement fibre, the bark pulp can improve the tear index of paper. The incorporation of a middle filling layer of pulp from the whole stem improved the stiffness and printing properties of the carton for liquid packages, whilst at 25% substitution the same pulp increased the tear strength of packaging (brown) paper. Good newsprint paper was produced with a mix of 75 - 85% kenaf pulp with chemical wood pulp. Bleached pulp was ideal for hygienic uses, reflecting its high fluid retention and resistance to disintegration. However, it has some weakness as a component of writing paper, reflecting the high level of fines. It was found that the incorporation of kenaf fibre was an effective way to enhance the quality of pulp based on recycled fibres.

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Rue Joseph II 36-38
1040 Brussels

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Participants (17)