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Sericulture- An Art and Science of Silk Production

In developing countries like Pakistan reduction of rural poverty is a paramount goal. According
to World Bank estimate more than 70% poor people live in rural areas. Various strategies have
been pursued to address this concern and create new employment opportunities. The practice of
sericulture is one of the important agro- based pursuits with which rural population is associated
from ancient times. 
 Sericulture industry provides direct and indirect employment to various stakeholders and aids in augmenting their income. Sericulture sector provides sufficient returns
to the farmers in less possible time and has an ample employment generating potential. In rural
areas it is necessary to focus on a broader spectrum of the rural economy through improved ways
and means. Thus the establishment of rural based industries like sericulture, in particular, can be
very effective tool for providing support to landless farmers and also the rural women who can
also make their earnings through its practice.
Sericulture is both an art and science of raising silkworms for silk production. It is an agro-based
industry which is the cultivation of silk through rearing of silkworm for production of raw silk
and includes the operations of silk fiber production. It involves the raising of food plants for
silkworm, rearing of silkworm, reeling and spinning of cocoon for production of yarn and fabric.
The history of silk dates back to earlier civilizations. The Chinese has used silk since the 27th
century B.C. Silk as a weavable fiber was first discovered by the Chinese empress Xi Ling Shi
during 2,640 B.C. and its culture and weaving was a guarded secret for more than 2,500 years by
the Chinese. Silk was a profitable trade commodity in China. Even today, silk reigns supreme as
an object of desire and fabric of high fashion. Being a rural based industry, the production and
weaving of silk are largely carried out by relatively poor sections of the society and this aspect of
sericulture has made it popular and sustainable in many countries.
The World Raw Silk production is about 126995 MT (2009) mainly from two countries, China
and India. China leads the world with silk production of 104000 MT or 81.89% of the produce
while India’s raw silk production is 19690 MT. Pakistan share in world trade export of silk is
only 0.03% while in import 2.77%. There is a big gap between import and export of Pakistan’s
silk. We can not only save a lot of capital but also earn a lot by improving Sericulture industry in
Top five Importer & Exporter of Silk and Pakistan
Country Export In US $ Country Import In US $
China 1,706,042,559 China, Hong Kong 118,744,970
Germany 97,553,597 USA 170,969,566
India 163,511,111 India 325,773,845
Italy 389,275,471 Italy 396,912,050
Japan 112,986,528 Japan 179,738,927
Pakistan 686,077 Pakistan 33,949,018
Pakistan’s Share In
W/ trade
0.03% Pakistan’s Share In
W/ trade
Total 2,470,055,343 Total 1,226,088,376
Main occupation of Pakistan populations is agriculture. And silk industry is based on agricultural
output and it is a labor intensive avocation. Silk industry can provide employment for the rural
masses ensuring economic returns at the individual family level. Silk is a high valued textile. It is
suitable for rural people especially women due to following reasons:
o Sericulture needs less specialized skill and hence almost all the men and women can be
linked to this industry.
o It involves usually indoor activities so suited for women. Rural women can do it near
their houses and while doing their daily chores as rearing needs feeding etc at intermittent
o Sericulture is less labor intensive because less physical force is required.
o It requires Minimum investment which can be arranged easily by the poor.
o Farmers can get good income in very short period of 40-45 days.
o It is eco-friendly occupation because it involves the cultivation of Mulberry.
Mulberry silkworms, Eri silkworms, Tasar silkworms and Muga Silkworms are some species of
silkworms. Mulberry contribute 95% of world’s silk production. In Pakistan Mulberry silk
production is common. The practice adopted by people for production of mulberry silk is given
Mulberry Cultivation: Silkworms feed on mulberry leaves. So cultivation of mulberry trees is
necessary for silk production, which provides a regular supply of leaves to the silkworms. There
are over 20 species of mulberry, of which four are common: Morus alba, M. indica, M. serrata
and M latifolia. Mulberry is propagated either by seeds, root- grafts or stem cuttings, the last one
being most common. Cuttings, 22-23 cm long with 3-4 buds each and pencil thick, are obtained
from mature stem. These are planted directly in the field or first in nurseries to be transplanted
later. After the plants have grown, pruning is carried out and leaves are collected after 10 weeks
of pruning. Seeds are obtained from grainages, which are the centers for production of disease
free seeds of pure and hybrid races in large quantities. Bombyx mori is domesticated insect which
feed exclusively on the leaves of Mulberry tree to produce raw silk in the form of cocoon.
Rearing: The silkworms are actually larvae of the silkmoth. They are reared in specially made
trays in rooms with controlled temperature and humidity (22°C and 65% RH) and regularly fed
mulberry leaves. Entire branch with leaves is fed to Larvae. Periodic feeding and cleaning is very
necessary. At a certain stage they convert themselves into pupa. The pupa is covered within a
thick, oval, white or yellow silken case called cocoon. These cocoons are made from a single
filament of material secreted by the pupa and wrapped around itself for protection. These
filaments upon hardening constitute silk. On an average, 1 acre of plantation would yield 240 kg
of cocoons in a year, starting from 100 DFLs (Disease Free Layings i.e Eggs). Farmers can
harvest the cocoons 4 to 8 times in a year, depending upon whether it is dryland or irrigated
Reeling: The removal of silk yarn from the cocoons is called reeling. The cocoons are cooked
first in hot water at 95-97 o C for 10-15 minutes to soften the adhesion of silk threads among
themselves and unwinding the filaments. Usually 8-10 cocoons are reeled together. There are
three methods for reeling: the charkha, the slightly more advanced cottage basin and the costly
automatic machines.
Twisting: Prior to weaving, the raw silk is boiled in water to remove remaining gum, dyed and
bleached, and then woven.
Weaving: Clothes are created by the weaving of thread. Thread is formed by the raw silk and
then it is woven into garments by the handloom or power loom.
Products of silk filament include Silk Yarn, silk cloth, Made-ups, Readymade Garments, Silk
Carpets and Silk Wastes.
Sericulture is suitable to many parts of Punjab and Azad Kashmir. Environment is favorable for
mulberry cultivation. So sericulture can be adopted as a profession by the farmers. To solve the
employment problems and poverty, boosting up of sericulture industry is very necessary. Policy
makers must formulate and adopt policies for silk industry to solve unemployment problem and
boost up export of silk products, which improve silk industry in Pakistan and will reduce burden
on budget on the import of silk.


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