Promotion of Sericulture in J&K

Dr. Banarsi Lal

Rearing of silkworms for the production of raw silk is known as sericulture. Sericulture involves the rearing of silkworm, collection of cocoons, reeling of raw silk from the cocoons and availability of mulberry trees from which fresh leaves can be obtained to feed the silkworms. Union Territory of J&K is one of the leading silk producing territories in India. In J& K there are around 2,800 villages where the sericulture is considered as an important activity for the farmers.In J&K there are around 7 lakh mulberry trees out of which 53 per cent are available in Jammu region and 47 per cent in Kashmir region. Approximately 6,680 quintals of raw silk worth about Rs.50 crores is produced annually in J&K. J&K is the only territory in the country which is at the same altitude in which leading biovoltine sericulture countries of the world lie. J&K is bestowed with the conducive atmosphere to produce the biovoltine silk.Sericulture is the traditional cottage industry in J&K. Union Territory J&K produces high quality biovoltine silk comparable to the international standard. Sericulture can help to improve the economic condition of the rural people of J&K.
In the Union Territory of J&K, sericulture is considered as an age old vocation. J&K has enormous potential in sericulture or silk production. Commercial sericulture can really empower the farmers of J&K by increasing their income and employment. The raw silk produced in J&K is recognized across the globe. As per researches sericulture is considered as an age old vocation in J&K but in Jammu region it was introduced about 100 years back. Major part of J&K is rain fed and maize, wheat and paddy are the major crops of the region. The size of land holding in J&K is small and horticulture and agroforestry have immense potential in the region. It is difficult for the farmers of J&K to mitigate all their basic needs because of low income from agricultural sector. Some farmers from the particular areas of J&K take sericulture as the subsidiary occupation. In order to promote the sericulture industry in J&K, mulberry trees production needs to be enhanced. There is need to introduce some new varieties of mulberry so that the leaf production can be increase which will facilitate the silkworm production. Generally two rearings of silkworms are conducted one in February-March and another in Aug.-September but if the mulberry leaves are available in sufficient quantity then four rearings are possible in a year. Sericulture is taken as a subsidiary occupation by about 29000 rural households in J&K. Most of these families are economically backward and sericulture plays a crucial role for their livelihood. In order to empower these farm families’ productivity and quality of cocoons need to be improved by applying the more scientific package of practices. Some high yielding breeds of silkworms’ along with the new varieties of mulberry need to be introduced. Integrated Nutrient Management (INM) is also required for the scientific mulberry cultivation. Farmers need more rearing space and start-up tools for the scientific sericulture. More awareness and capacity building programmes need to be organized for the farmers so that they can be updated with the latest technologies in sericulture. Sericulture is mostly bivoltine in J&K and most of the cocoons are produced during the spring season. Although the autumn crop has been introduced but yield and quality is not excellent. Post-cocoon management also needs to be improved. It has been observed that cocoons reared in J&K are of high quality in Asia. Its fibers can be compared with the best on the world. Inadequacy of mulberry leaves and lack of awareness on scientific technologies are the hurdles for the progress and area expansion of sericulture industry in J&K.
Sericulture is one of the most ancient industries in J&K.J&K silk goods are recognized across the globe because of their colour and quality. There was time when the silk goods were exported from J&K to the Roman, Greek and Persian empires. Mughals were also fond of silk from Kashmir. Many nurseries are established for the production of mulberry saplings which are further distributed among the farmers. Department of Sericulture and State Agriculture Universities (SAUs) of J&K are making strenuous efforts for the area expansion and production of cocoons in J&K. They collaborately organize the capacity building programmes for the silkworm growers and upgrading their knowledge on sericulture. There are about 0.38 lakh of weavers who are engaged in this industry in J&K. Silk goods from J&K are of high demand in the national and international level. These handloom goods generate employment in J&K. Reasi and Udhampur districts of J&K have huge potential for sericulture. There are certain sericulture pockets in both the districts where the farmers are doing commercial cocoon production. The income from sericulture is supplementing their total income and uplifting their socio-economic status.
J&K is the only territory in the country which is at the same altitude in which the leading bivoltine sericulture countries of the world lie. Union Territory of J&K has the natural climate which is congenial for the production of high quality raw silk. Bivoltine sericulture is on the top priority for the Indian sericulture industry. Although India is at second rank in the silk production in the world but the domestic demand is more than that of production. The more demand is mitigated through the import from China. J&K has huge potential in the production of bivoltine silk and can reduce its import from abroad. In J&K silk industry can be flourished and more income and employment can be generated through it. There is a dire need to give a boost to the sericulture industry in J&K. It can rejuvenate the industrial sector in J&K. The silk carpets from J&K are already are of great demand and with new innovations we can tap the untapped markets. Some more research projects can help in the value addition in the sericulture industry. More and more unemployed youths can be attracted towards this industry by providing them the incentives and subsidies. This sector has been identified as the viable sector for the employment generation. This industry can revolutionize this beautiful Union Territory with a new source of livelihood for the rural and urban people. SKUAST-J, SKUAST-K and Department of Sericulture can play the key role to enhance the quality and quantity of cocoons in J&K. There should be proper mechanism to sale the cocoons and silk products.
Strenuous efforts are needed to revive this industry for the benefit of the rural people. There is dire need to promote the silk produced from J&K. The government has launched some small schemes including free plant material and distributing of free silk rearing kits that growers are using during rearing process of cocoons. Sericulture authorities organized cocoon auction markets across J&K where the growers sell their cocoons. In J&K, sericulture is an ideal enterprise for the rural development especially for the weaker sections of the society. This sector has the unique feature of converting family labour into useful income for the family of the farmers. Sericulture is an eco-friendly vocation and has high potential for poverty eradication. It has proved as an ideal tool for women and tribal farmers of J&K. It is an excellent tool for transfer of wealth from affluent section of the society to the poor. A strategic approach is needed to give a boost to the sericulture industry in J&K.
(The writer is Scientist & Head, KVK, Reasi, SKUAST-J).

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