The Central Silk Board, upbeat about the recent increase in customs duty on raw silk import, says it wants to wipe out imports by 2022 with a string of pro-grower measures.

It has begun, according to silk board member-secretary Ishita Roy.

“Just five years ago our dependence on [silk from] China was around 10,000 tonnes. It has now reduced to 5,700 tonnes. We hope exports will start picking up,” she said.

Exports in 2011-12 were worth Rs. 2,523 crore. Days after the Finance Minister raised the duty from 5 per cent to 15 per cent in the Budget, there is a buoyant sentiment in the silk growing industry and it will start telling on the prices in the domestic market, Ms. Roy told a news conference here on Wednesday.

“It is still early days but prices have begun to improve. We know that prices are going to hit an all-time high this year,” she said.

Board chairman N.S. Bisse Gowda said that duty has been increased at the right time when the industry is being nudged towards self-sufficiency in raw silk by 2017, the end of the 12th Plan period.

He said, “The upward revision of duty is expected to have a positive impact on domestic sericulture industry through better value realisation for indigenous cocoons and raw silk. This will definitely attract the farmers to take up sericulture on a larger scale across the country and contribute towards quality raw silk production and to attain self sustenance.”

Ms. Roy said that it will also encourage farmers to go after import-substitution or bivoltine silk. Last year, the country, the second largest producer, came out with 23,000 tonnes of silk from all four varieties [mulberry, tasar, muga and eri]. This year, it expects an overall output of 24,000 tonnes.

Exports dipped in the first nine months of this fiscal, until December 2012. However, the positive news was that “the trends since January-February this year have been extremely encouraging”, especially readymade garments, silk waste and carpets.

Also, exporters have diversified into new and stable geographies — beyond the traditional U.S. and European markets — such as the UAE, South Africa and Scandinavian countries.

Initiatives under the 12th Plan would improve funds flow to the sector, which needs Rs. 65,000 crore.

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