New beginning for linen mills

[b]Russia and Belarus to join efforts in reviving leadership in flax cultivation and processing[/b]Russia and Belarus have made strides in flax cultivation, resulting in Orsha Linen Mill’s fabrics (Vitebsk Region) being much admired recently at an exhibition in Frankfurt. Meanwhile, Vologda Textile enterprise leads in flax processing in Russia; based in the Russian city of Vologda, the enterprise has attended the Premiere Vision international expo, in Paris, for many years.
Russia and Belarus to join efforts in reviving leadership in flax cultivation and processing

Russia and Belarus have made strides in flax cultivation, resulting in Orsha Linen Mill’s fabrics (Vitebsk Region) being much admired recently at an exhibition in Frankfurt. Meanwhile, Vologda Textile enterprise leads in flax processing in Russia; based in the Russian city of Vologda, the enterprise has attended the Premiere Vision international expo, in Paris, for many years.
French flax seeds have been used for flax processing at Dubrovno Linen Mill for some time now. It is doing well, unlike most of the rest of the industry. It’s hard to compete with European trendsetters in Belgium, Italy and Turkey, so Russia and Belarus are keen to join forces in their competitive struggle. A programme of innovative development of flax within the Union State of Russia and Belarus is in progress; let`s look at the most important regions for this industry and what‘s going on at the largest enterprises.

Special machinery
Much of the specialised machinery used in flax cultivation is designed in Tver, at the All-Russian Research Institute of Flax Cultivation Mechanisation (Russian Agricultural Academy), with the help of Belarusian experts, explains Mikhail Kovalev, its director. He tells us, “Automated double-row teams were developed in the USSR initially, with Western Europe taking up the idea. Now, they tend to lead in applying innovations, while we fall behind. We need to be more resilient, finding application for our unique range of theoretical designs (unseen in Europe, Canada or the USA). Our high-performance flax harvester in Tver was engineered in co-operation with the Scientific and Practical Centre of Belarus for Flax Cultivation mechanisation. Belarus is ready to mass produce this model of harvester.”

Stalks change into fibre
After reconstruction, Shklov Flax Mill is the most modern in Belarus; its new line for processing raw flax enhances quality and even makes use of the waste by-products; oil is made from the discarded seeds while the stems are used for fuel at boiler plants and to form fuel briquettes. Belarus has 42 flax mills but, by the end of 2015, only 30 will remain, 18 modernised to follow the Shklov model.

Weaver loom or spaceship?

Flax is not just Belarus’ oldest crop, it’s the pride of the nation; flax flowers are depicted on the state emblem and large sums are allocated by the state to maintain and modernise the flax industry. Orsha Linen Mill is a great example, being one of the major producers of linen fabrics in Europe. Major reconstruction is occurring across the whole branch, to improve efficiency but, already, over 65 percent of fabrics are exported to Europe, Canada and Japan.
Kostroma Linen Factory in Russia has already been modernised, inspiring IKEA to become the enterprise’s biggest client. It has even won a contract to supply official souvenirs for the 2014 Winter Olympics and produces such diverse goods as gunpowder bags and long carpets for trains. Vologda Textile is also doing well, boasting the most modern looms in Europe; some of the technology, such as digital printing and digital yarn clearing, are quite futuristic. The automatic ‘thread re-loader’ allows looms to be rethreaded within 40 minutes rather than 2-3 days.
Nikolai Aleksov, the head of Vologda Textile, tells us, “The industry needs access to low-interest loans and needs to organise staff training, as well as improving the quality of raw materials, to ensure it succeeds in the commercial fashion business. We also need good distribution networks to promote linen goods. We’re ready to work with Belarus so that Orsha Linen Mill will be our partner rather than our rival, helping us face modern challenges — such as Chinese expansion.

Look to the future
Flax shives (from within the stem) are used for fertiliser, while the meal can be added to pastry for bread-making. Flax is also part of gunpowder production, geotextiles and, of course, the production of linen. It’s even used in the production of building insulation and artists’ canvases. In Gavrilov-Yam, in the Yaroslavl Region of Russia, Moscow entrepreneur Maxim Sukharev is using his experience in the pharmaceutical business to make health supplements from flaxseed oil.
Another unusual use of flax is in the production of medical cotton, as seen at Vologodchina, in the village of Sheksna, in the Vologda Region. Using equipment from all over the world, they’ve developed their own method of making disposable napkins for medical use, alongside packaging for bakery products. Vologodchina is keen to buy Belarusian flax and may even open a joint processing company in Belarus.

By Sergey Gomonov
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