Few sericulturists in DK despite govt schemes

Though the undivided Dakshina Kannada had over 3,000 sericulturists in the 1990s, the number in the district has come down to 86 now.

Of these, Dakshina Kannada has 28 silk farmers engaged in the business and Udupi has 58.

There has been a steady decline in the area under sericulture in the district over time. The activity is not taken up in 35-acre land in DK and 55-acre in Udupi.

Speaking to DH, DK and Udupi Sericulture department Assistant Director K Padmanabha Bhat said, “The shift in preference to horticulture is because of lack of stability in the market and decline in the joint family system. These two changes are responsible for the decline in sericulture in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts”.

Joint family system

“There were people to tend to cocoons and mulberry fields in the joint family system. With the decline in the joint family system, the number of people opting for sericulture too declined. Now, sericulture is taken up as a subsidiary source of income and not the main occupation. It is labour intensive too,” he pointed out.

Those who stopped growing mulberry never returned to sericulture in spite of government incentives, financial assistance and the ‘Banni Reshme Beleyiri Sarkarada Savalathu Padeyiri’ programmes.

There are no takers for sericulture in the undivided Dakshina Kannada district, said the officials. The department has been creating awareness on the schemes through pamphlets in gram sabhas to motivate farmers to take up sericulture.

Heavy rain

Heavy rain is not conducive for silkworm rearing. Depending on the number of sericulturists, the department was also full-fledged in the 1990s with 83 staff members. Now, there are eight staff members in DK and four in Udupi. There is no deputy director for the department in undivided DK.

Sericulture was affected when the price of cocoons was slashed a decade ago. The price of cocoons per kg had declined to Rs 50 from Rs 250. In the last five years, there is stability in the price. Cocoons fetch Rs 300 to Rs 400 per kg.

“Unfortunately, there is no market for sericulturists in DK. There is a small market in Karkala. The farmers have to depend on Hassan and Ramanagar markets to sell cocoons. Sericulture can be profitable if taken up effectively. Farmers should think of taking up sericulture as a secondary occupation,” said Padmanabha Bhat.

“At least one-acre land is required to grow mulberry. A shed should be constructed to allow silkworms to make cocoons. As a result, farmers with small holdings are not coming forward to take up sericulture,” said officials.

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