China is at present the source of supply of the raw product, and the world's demand is only about ten thousand tons, nine tenths of this quantity being absorbed in Oriental countries. The ramie situation in the United States at the present time may be briefly summarized as follows:
The plant can be grown successfully in (California and in the Gulf States, and will produce from two to four crops per year without replanting, giving from two hundred and fifty to eight hundred pounds of fiber per acre, dependent upon the number of cuttings, worth perhaps four cents per pound. The machines for preparing this fiber for market are hardly able at the present time to clean the product of one acre (single crop) in a day, and the fiber is quite inferior to the commercial China grass. A new French machine produces a quality of fiber which approaches the China grass of commerce, but its output per day is too small to make its use profitable in this country. All obstacles in chemical treatment of the fiber and in spinning and manufacture are overcome, and the world is waiting for the successful device which will economically prepare the raw material for market.
The part the United States Government is taking in the work is to co-operate in experiments, to issue publications giving all desired information regarding culture, the machine question, and the utilization of the fiber. It tests new decorticators and reports to the public upon their merits or demerits. It cautions farmers and capitalists, for the present, to go into the industry with their eyes open, for the professional promotor has seized upon this industry, above all others in the fiber interest, as one in which he can more readily gull