Not enough flax was grown in Scotland to satisfy the demand from the Scottish spinning mills and most fibre was imported, much of it from Russia where production costs were low. Competition arose, however, when the East India Company started to import a somewhat similar but rather cheaper fibre – jute from India. It was not until 1832 that the problem of spinning this more brittle fibre on conventional spinning machines had been
overcome (by softening it first in whale oil). From then on most of the Blairgowrie and Dundee linen mills progressively switched over to spinning the new material. The linen industry in north east Scotland had traditionally produced coarse linen cloth and adapted easily to the production of coarse jute fabrics.
The jute industry began to decline at the start of the 20th Century, mainly due to competition from mills in India where labour costs were much lower. The Ericht mills became progressively uneconomic and started to close. Despite minor booms during the two world wars and experiments such as spinning artificial fibres, the last working mills on the Ericht were forced to shut down in 1979.