Silk farming to come under rural job scheme to boost exports

As silk exports decline, the Centre has decided to partly subsidise silk farming by bringing certain activities under its flagship rural jobs scheme.

The Ministry of Rural Development and Ministry of Textiles have issued joint guidelines to take up cultivation of host plants of mulberry, on which silkworms feed, under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

Karnataka stands to benefit as mulberry bush plantation would be covered under the initiative in selected clusters in the state.

Domestic natural silk exports have been on a decline from a high of USD 380 million in 2008 to just USD 155 million this year.

China continues to dominate the global silk market by selling its silk at a price 20-30 per cent lower than India.

Activities related to silkworm rearing such as clearing and land development for host plants, pit digging and transplantation, soil treatment, watering, basin formation and weeding, manure application, plant protection, inputs and farm implements would be covered under MGNREGS.

Sericulture is practised in around 26 states and provides employment to 7.5 million rural people, mostly belonging to the vulnerable sections of the society.

India is the only country that produces all the four varieties of commercially exploitable silk – mulberry, tussar, eri and muga.

Textiles Minister Kavuri Sambasiva Rao said domestic silk production was 23,000 tonnes at the end of the 11th Plan and it was proposed to increase it by 10,000 tonnes by the end of the 12th Plan (2012-17).

“We want to motivate people so that they can cross this production limit and take it to 40,000 tonnes. This will reduce our dependence on silk imports from countries like China and help us become self-sufficient,” he said.

Under the current initiative, MGNREGS would be linked with the Textile Ministry schemes covered by the Catalytic Development Programme which disseminates innovations to enhance the productivity and quality of silk.

Linking the MGNREGS with the sector will help train about 15 lakh workers in the next three years, Rao said.

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