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.
Sericulture or 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.
“Sericulture is the only cash crop that ensures significant returns in a short span of time, earning it a special place in the rural economy. Although the state produces high-quality bivoltine cocoons, productivity and total cocoon output are low” said Atal Dulloo, Additional Chief Secretary, Agriculture Production Department while highlighting the broad contours of the sanctioned project. Similarly, cocoon yields are half of the national average and over the past few years the output from the sector has been shrinking. Improving seed quality, rearing facilities and cocoon processing will provide a huge shot in the arm for the sector and improve income at farm levels, he added.
“Technological interventions to strengthen Sericulture in J&K” is one among the 29 projects, which were approved by the Jammu and Kashmir administration after being recommended by the UT Level Apex Committee for holistic development of Agriculture and Allied Sectors in UT of J&K. The prestigious committee is being headed by Dr Mangala Rai, Former DG ICAR and has other luminaries in the field of Agriculture, Planning, Statistics and Administration like Ashok Dalwai, CEO NRAA, Dr P. K Joshi, Secretary, NAAS, Dr Prabhat Kumar, Horticulture Commissioner MOA &FW, Dr. H. S Gupta, Former Director, IARI, Atal Dulloo, Additional Chief Secretary, APD apart from the Vice Chancellors of the twin Agriculture Universities of the UT.
One of the main challenges facing the sericulture industry in J&K is the lack of access to modern technology. Many farmers still use traditional methods of silk production, which are time-consuming and labour-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, said Manzoor Qadri, Director of Sericulture J&K. The project shall ensure that the global fame which silk from J&K had garnered will be regained, he added.
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 centres for the supply of chawki worms to seri farmers, giving employment to 7000 new silkworm farmers and skill development of existing15000 farmers.
Marketing and value-added support is also being created through the establishment of a high-value enterprise in the from 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.
Dr Firdose Ahmad Malik, Assistant Professor, SKUAST-Kashmir, who co-drafted the project, said that the overall objective of the project is to strengthen processes that promote the economic development of sericulture farmers of UT of J&K and create an environment of growth and investment in the sector.