Economy, Domestic Economy

Sericulture Struggling to Escape From Cocoon

Sericulture Struggling to Escape From CocoonSericulture Struggling to Escape From Cocoon

Mulberry trees in Mazandaran and Gilan Provinces, along with the intrinsic feature of adding to the beauty of the evergreen regions in northern Iran, also grow leaves that are fed to silkworms by farmers whose numbers are declining day by day.

The number of silk reeling workshops in the country has considerably reduced in recent years. Silk smuggling on the one hand and excessive imports of low-quality silk on the other have made the situation alarming.

“In case the situation doesn’t change, no rosy future awaits the industry,” an expert told the Persian daily Forsat-e Emrooz.

The industry, according to the expert, is in danger of destruction as the silk farmers are mostly aged individuals and the risks and impediments in the sector have prevented the younger generations from joining it.

Many experts believe that sericulture, if promoted among the younger generation, could easily be saved as domestic industries such as carpet and textile sectors, which are the main customers of raw silk, are more inclined toward Iranian silk. The latter is richer in quality compared to imported or smuggled products.

This is while, according to the head of Sericulture Development Center of Iran, Ali-Asghar Dadashpour, the government is taking measures to promote silk farming and boost production.

“Farmers need to be educated so as to embrace silk farming as a serious business rather than a transitory activity,” he said, referring to the fact that silk farming is usually seen by farmers and small landowners of Gilan and Mazandaran as a side business, which helps them generate additional income besides crop farming in the off-season, as the business requires low investment and has short gestation period.

Dadashpour pointed out that although 500 tons of silk were imported in the past Iranian year (ended March 20, 2015), which was more than the country’s consumption, demand for quality domestic silk was still in place.

Private businesses active in the carpet industry have lately shown more interest in domestic silk. Small factories reel the cocoons on spinning mills and turn it into silk, which they sell to carpet weavers in central cities such as Qom and Kashan. On average every 30 kilograms of cocoon yield 4.5 kilograms of raw silk, which could weave 2 square meters of carpet.

The government, however, is still a major buyer of silk farmers’ cocoons. In spring, the government purchased 383 tons of cocoons valued at $2.5 million from the farmers.

Experts believe that despite the government’s efforts to develop sericulture, along with public tendency toward silk farming, the country has not had the chance to live up to its potential in silk farming.

Iran was ranked by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as the fifth top cocoon producing country in 2005, after China and India, which are global leaders in silk farming. Iran is currently the 10th silk producing country in the world.

Moreover, the government’s efforts in the recent years have resulted in self-sufficiency in Iran’s silkworm production. Efforts by the Ministry of Agricultural Jihad and relevant departments in recent years have been focused on controlling larvae diseases and improving efficiency through distribution of good quality silkworm eggs among farmers.