Growers get vertigo as silk has free fall

Slippery:

Silk growers in the taluk are experiencing the best and worst of it, in a span of barely three weeks.

Over the last two to three years, farmers had a bumper crop of silk and made a killing in the market. In the last three weeks, however, the price of silk fell suddenly, and the farmers’ dream of continuing good times crashing.

Slow fall

The undivided Kolar district was famous for silk, milk and gold. With the closure of the famed KGF mines, gold lost its lustre and the citizens started focusing on sericulture and animal husbandry.

Now, however, the decision of the Union and State governments to implement duty-free import of silk from China has led to a disastrous fall in the price of silk cocoons, creating a near panic among farmers in the district, who are wondering if the entire silk industry would collapse.

The price of cocoons, that ruled between Rs 350 and Rs 400 a kg, fell to between Rs 150 and Rs 200 a kg as soon as the Union government cut the import duty on silk from China to a mere five percent, down from 31 per cent.

The minimum cost of production of a kg of cocoons, however, remains between of Rs 300 and Rs 325. The cut in import duty on silk from China has crashed the prices of locally produced cocoons, say silk growers in the district.

Agro problems lead to silk

Sharing their difficulties, they remind that both Kolar and Chikkaballapur are among the backward districts in the State. About three-fourths of the residents in the districts are engaged in agriculture. Most water sources are drying up due to poor rainfall in the last five to six years. No water is found in the tubewells till even 800 to 1,000 feet. In addition digging a tubewell and installing a motor with power connection involves expenditure up to lakhs of rupees.

“Sericulture, in contrast, had become a much better option. We had started earning much more money through cultivation of silk worms,” say the farmers.

They explained that they were growing the largest quantity of silk cocoons in the entire State. “The new, unexpected changes related to the silk industry have virtually destroyed us,” they complained.

The future appears bleak to the silk growers, thanks to the collapse in silk price. They are almost forced to migrate from their native district in search of livelihood.

In an attempt to put forth their problems before the government, the growers started the Silk Growers' Welfare Board. They even started staging various kinds of protests including throwing the cocoons on the roads and destroying them, undergoing fast and closing and locking the silk market and government office.

Yet, with the condition improving not a whit, and with no one to empathise with them, the silk growers are planning on even ending their lives. Already a couple at in Mandya district have done so.

“The government has turned a blind eye towards our problems,” the silk growers said. Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa promised to send a team to convince the Union government about the problems faced by silk growers due to fall in price of silk. Silk Minister B N Bachegowda too tries to convince us that the problem is temporary and would be solved soon. “But no definite step has been taken so far to alleviate our problem.”

Related works

The silk industry provides direct and indirect employment to thousands of people, including growers, reelers, field labourers, coroon reaThousands of people are employed are gaining employment through the silk industry in many ways. The fall in silk price has affected mulberry farmers, cocoon rearers, reelers, field labourers, sellers and all people who are dependent on the silk industry.

“If the price of silk continues to fall in the current manner, we shall have to destroy the mulberry crop,” say farmers.

Workers in the reeling units too are worrying about their workplaces shutting down and their having to struggle for alternate employment.

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