Importance of Sericulture in India

Importance of Sericulture in India

During Pre-independence period

  • Sericulture in India has a remote past dating back to several centuries prior to the commencement of the Christian era. It has been held that mulberry culture came from China to India around 140 B.C.
  • But there have been references to the use of silk in our epics pointing out to its existence in our country even some 2000 years before Christian era. Even as far back as the 2nd century B.C. India’s export of silk-goods to European countries was spectacular.
  • However, the course of development of the industry has never been even. The sericulture-industry in India in the past had to suffer on account of foreign invasion and also lack of official patronage. It received encouragement during the Moghal rule.
  • The East India Company gave the industry a great stimulus during the latter half of the 18th century. It encouraged export of raw silk to the silk-weaving-industry in U.K. Even Bengal exported 2.54 lakh kg. of raw silk to England between 1861 and 1885. But the industry received set-back during the fourth quarter of the nineteenth century.Importance of Sericulture in India
  • Silk-worm diseases and severe competition from China and Japan affected the industry adversely. Instead of being an exporter, India had to resort to large scale import of raw silk from China and Japan to meet her requirements.
  • Barring for a short revival during the First World War, the industry received a set back mainly due to severe competition from imports, diseases and lack of official encouragement.
  • The industry had to face severe competition from imports of silk from China and Japan during 1931-32. This crippled the industry seriously and necessitated tariff protection. In 1934 the industry was accorded tariff protection against competition from imports of silk from China and Japan. Even though some protection against imports was granted no planned development was attempted by the then imperial government.
  • The Laffory Committee (1914-15) had recommended the organisational support backed-up by the government for the development of the industry, but this went unheeded.
  • Ironically, the Second World War provided a great impetus to the sericulture-industry. Imports of raw silk from China and Japan were stopped and the “Allies” had to depend only on India for the supply of raw silk for war purposes. Financial aid was given by the government to implement several expansion schemes for sericulture development.
  • In order to develop the industry to its fullest possible potential, the government gave financial assistance to implement several developmental schemes with the result that acreage under mulberry, production of raw silk and filature basins substantially increased by 1945.
  • The silk industry was in a position to supply to the “Allies” in substantial quantities the much needed silk parachute fabrics and parachute components. The services rendered by the silk-industry were well recognised by the Central Government.
  • To look after the interest of the silk industry, the Government of India established a Silk Development Directorate in 1945.
  • A Silk Panel was also set-up to study the developmental requirements of the entire silk-industry and to make suitable recommendations. The Panel drew up a Five Year Plan as a part of the perspective of 15 years and it also suggested the setting up of a Central Silk Board for the co-ordinated development of the industry. The Central Silk Board was constituted only in 1949.
  • A perusal of the industry before independence and the set-up of the Central Silk Board shows that no systematic attempts were made for its orderly development in the past.
  • The attempts made in the past were aimed at achieving limited objectives. The industry was left to itself and also had to suffer the consequences of unregulated imports of raw silk and export of silk-waste which together affected its development adversely.

Post-independence period development:

  • India is the only country in the world which is known for the production of all the four varieties of silk, viz. mulberry, tasar, eri and muga, chief amongst which is mulberry-silk.
  • Mulberry silk is chiefly concentrated in Karnataka, followed by Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir States which together account for about 99 per cent of the total mulberry raw silk produced in the country.
  • Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Orissa, Punjab, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh contribute only an insignificant proportion of the country’s total mulberry raw silk production.
  • Mulberry sericulture has been taken up recently in Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala, Rajastan and Gujarat.
  • The rest of the States and centrally administered territories in the country have rich potential for the development of mulberry sericulture.
  • The major tasar raw silk-production States are Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal while Manipur accounts for a very small share. Some districts in Karnataka have just began to produce tasar silk.
  • The bulk of eri silk is produced in Assam, while it is also produced on a small scale in Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa, Manipur and Meghalaya, muga-silk is chiefly concentrated in Assam.
  • In recent years, Tripura and Manipur are producing oak-tasar raw silk.

Relative change in the position of sericultural States

  • There has been a consistent increase in the area under mulberry, cocoon and raw silk production in the case of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal while the production in Jammu and Kashmir is stand still.
  • Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal have been able to achieve impressive progress because of the application of improved technologies of silk-worm rearing, new varieties of mulberry and its propagation-techniques and high yielding silk-worm-breeds evolved by the research institutions in the country.
  • In fact, Andhra Pradesh did not have sericulture worth the name till 1976-77, but it has shown consistent and rapid progress during the past two decades. Jammu and Kashmir State is ideally suited to the development, especially of bivoltine sericulture.
  • It had occupied a prominent position in the sericultural map of the country from ancient time. But during the last four decades, Jammu and Kashmir State is witnessing stagnation.
  • Karnataka is a premier silk producing State in India and specialises in the production of mulberry-silk in as much as it produces 9236 m. tonnes of raw silk and accounts for 65.74 per cent of the total silk production in the country.

National Sericulture Project

  • The biggest impetus in recent years to the development of Indian sericulture was provided by the commencement of the five year 555 crore National Sericulture Project (NSP) initiated by the Central Silk Board for the development of mulberry-sericulture in the country.
  • The project envisaged to bring an additional acreage of 57,000 hectares of land under mulberry cultivation in order to produce additional 6072 m.tonnes of mulberry raw-silk by the end of Five Year project period.
  • The project was assisted by the World Bank and the Swiss Development Co-operation and was under implementation from 1989 in 17 major states of India.
  • Karnataka is one of the states where the “Karnataka Sericulture Project” (KSP) was implemented by the Department of sericulture.
  • The main objectives of the project in the State were to increase the production of raw silk by bringing an additional irrigated area in the new districts, to provide employment mainly to weaker sections of the people, to strengthen research capability for evolving new races of silk-worms and strains of mulberry and to strengthen the arrangements for producing breeders.


Low gestation

  • About 12000 to 15000 this investment is enough for undertaking mulberry cultivation and silkworm rearing in one acre of irrigated land.
  • Mulberry takes only 6 months to grow for commencement of silkworm rearing mulberry once planted will go on supporting silkworm rearing year after year for 15- 20 years depending on management provided.
  • By adopting stipulated package of practice, a farmer can get up to Rs. 30000 per acre/ per annum

High returns and Women Empowerment

  • 60 percent of the women employed in down- stream activities sericulture in the country.
  • This achievement is possible because sericulture sector starting from mulberry garden management, leaf harvesting and silkworm rearing.

Ideal Programme for Weaker Sections of the Society

  • Sericulture is an ideal programme for weaker section of the society because low gestation, higher returns.
  • Acres of mulberry garden and silkworm rearing can avoid maximum labourers and save wages in the sericulture sector of the state.
  • Tasar silkworm process can offer supplementary gainful employment for tribals compare to other sericulture activities.

Eco- friendly Activity

  • Sericulture sector is a eco- friendly activity because as a perennial crop with good foliage mulberry contributes to soil conservation and provides greenery.
  • Waste from silkworm rearing can be recycled as inputs to garden.
  • Development programmes initiated for Mulberry plantation are mainly in upland areas where un-used cultivable land is made productive

Satisfies Equity Concerns

  • Sericulture activities enable the low income rural people as can reach higher income groups.

Prospects for sericulture

  • The sericulture industry in India exhibits high growth potential and export prospects. In spite of the tremendous competition posed by the emergence of man-made fibres in recent years, the global output of natural silk has registered a steady and significant increase of 104 per cent between 1975 and 1995. This only proves that the world demand for silk is increasing even in the face of an invasion of man-made fibres. The trend is expected to continue.
  • The natural silk has come to establish its competitive strength beyond all doubt and it is reasonable to expect that it would continue to enjoy its unassailed supremacy as a “Queen of Textiles” even in the future.
  • The sericulture industry particularly in the developing countries having potential for sericulture has been receiving considerable attention from international organisations like FAO, the World Bank etc
  • The silk-producing countries have exhibited a change in the pattern of production and consumption of silk in recent years. The output of silk has been increasing only in China and India. In most of the major silk producing countries, the consumption of silk is more than its output.
  • China, South Korea and Brazil enjoy sizeable marketable surplus. But as compared to the output of silk in India, the marketable surplus of South Korea and Brazil is less and as such, negligible effect on India’s export trade.
  • The only effective competitor to India is China. While Japan till recently a second major producer of silk has been exhibiting declining trend in the production of silk and has kept on importing substantial quantity of raw silk.
  • Another striking development is that India has now come to occupy the second place among the countries producing silk with the highest growth rate in the world.
  • In the context of the ever increasing global demand for silk and the changing fortunes of the sericulture countries, especially the withdrawal of Japan from the scene of international trade, India has a very large untapped potential for the expansion of her sericulture-industry.
  • India with its vast agricultural land and cheap labour and the progress already achieved in quantity and quality of silk through continued research shall not find it difficult to be a major producer and exporter of silk and silk goods to the world market in the time to come.


  • Sericulture is one the most important of agriculture and industry sector. In the Karnataka state rural and semi- urban areas most of the people adopt sericulture. Sericulture helps to improve the manufacturing sector.
  • It creates a self employment in Karnataka. More than 60 percent of people engaged in own activities in sericulture. This is an important labour intensive activity and agro- based industry.
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