Multiple problems threaten the very survival of this sector in the district
ANANTAPUR: Is sericulture in the process of becoming extinct in the district, which was once known as the hub of such farming in the State? Indications point to such a possibility if the gradual decline in the extent of mulberry cultivation is taken into account. Poor pricing of cocoons, adverse climatic conditions, increasing labour problem, lack of races in silkworms and, above all, the onslaught of China silk, are all the problems threatening the survival, keep aside growth, of the sector in the recent years.
The extent of mulberry cultivation in the district was about 60,000 acres in the district about 10 years back, but it has been coming down gradually and stands at only about 15,000 acres now, officials of the Sericulture Department stated. On the other hand, except the price of cocoons the prices of all inputs of mulberry cultivation, silkworms and cost of silk yarn have gone up considerably during the period.
However, the average price of cocoons has been almost static. The average price of cocoons was about Rs. 115 per kg in 1992, Rs. 107 in 2007 and is Rs. 110 this year. The farmers who are still engaged in sericulture have been able to go on only because of increased productivity, that is, the yield of cocoons from silkworm eggs.
“The yield of cocoons was about 35 kg from 100 eggs earlier and the improvement in silkworms’ breed has increased the average output to about 60 kg from 100 eggs now. Some farmers are even getting a yield of 80 to 90 kg of cocoons from 100 eggs,” Joint Director of Sericulture D. Jayaramappa stated, when contacted. The increased yield has been helping farmers continue with sericulture in spite of low rate for cocoons, he explained.
After the month-long agitation by silk reelers in the district earlier in April-May this year, the State government has announced several incentives and sops not only for reelers but also to the farmers engaged in sericulture.
The slew of measures include a maximum incentive of Rs. 20 per kg of cocoons in the event of the farmers getting a price lesser than Rs. 120 per kg for multi-voltine varieties of cocoon and of Rs. 40 per kg for bi-voltine white cocoon. This will be based on some quality specifications fixed by the government.