Reviving silk industry

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The Jammu and Kashmir government has approved an ambitious project worth Rs 91 crore envisaging revival and revitalization of the silk industry in the UT through technological interventions.The project which contains end-to-end interventions, right from the availability of mulberry leaves to better seed and worm production and finally, augmentation of reeling facilities shall double the number of cocoons produced in J&K and boost value addition by establishing a state-of-the-art automatic reeling facility at Jammu, an official press release informed today. It may be mentioned here that sericulture has a special place in the rural economy as this cash crop ensures significant returns in a short span of time. Jammu and Kashmir produces high-quality bivoltine cocoons, however productivity and total cocoon output are low and the cocoon yields are half of the national average and over the past few years the output from the sector has been shrinking.  To overcome the deficiencies, the UT administration has approved technological interventions to strengthen Sericulture in J&K as the the main challenges facing the sericulture industry here is the lack of access to modern technology. Many farmers still use traditional methods of silk production, which are time-consuming and labor-intensive as well as sub-par in terms of quality of output. This makes it difficult for them to benefit from the $250 million export market for Indian Silk, the officials insist. The new project envisaged by the UT administration is aimed at ensuring that the global fame that silk from J&K had garnered will be regained. As per officials, the major interventions that are being undertaken in the project included planting 10 lakh new mulberry plants in tree mode, doubling the silkworm seed production from 8 lakh to 16 lakh, increasing cocoon production from 700 MT to 1350 MT, establishing 100 new chawki rearing centers for supply of chawki worms to seri farmers, giving employment to 7000 new silkworm farmers and skill development of existing15000 farmers.Marketing and value addition support is also being created through the establishment of a high-value enterprise in the form of an Automatic Reeling Machine (ARM) which will directly benefit 2000 seri-farmers. The state-of-the-art machine will allow the production of international quality silk within the UT fetching better prices for our cocoons.

It may be mentioned here that silk and Kashmir used to be synonymous as this place has centuries-old association with silk and sericulture. The valley’s first silk reeling factory was started at Solina area in Srinagar in 1897 under the patronage of Britisher C W Walton, a well known sericulturist and an expert in the field. In 1937, a silk-weaving factory was established at Rajbagh. By 1961-62, the production of silk in the state went to around 98,000 kg but of late the industry has been in shambles due to lack of modern technological interventions. Silk production has a long-established history and market, local as well as foreign, in Jammu and Kashmir. The region is known for its high-quality bivoltine silk and has the potential to become a major silk-producing hub in the country. However, the industry has faced challenges in recent years and there was a need for its development and modernization in order to meet the growing demand for superior silk which can match and replace not only the silk being imported to the country but also compete in its export requirements abroad. In this regard, the project approved by the UT administration will go a long way in rejuvenating the dying industry and thus giving a boost to the economy.

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