Sericulture : A potential Agro-enterprise for farmers of J&K

Dr. Suraksha Chanotra
Sericulture industry has occupied a prominent place in the industrial development of Jammu and Kashmir. The climatic conditions prevailing here are quite favourable for production of bivoltine silk of international grade. Jammu and Kashmir is the only state which produces the best quality bivoltine silk in the world. Udhampur ranked as the leading producer district of Jammu and Kashmir provided income of 4.15 crores to the district and UT as well. Employment generation by sericulture in India is equal to 8.22% in the year 2019-20 with 1.5 lakh rural farmers and 54000 villages across the country (Annual report, CSB; 2020). Sericulture in India is a well organised sector and mainly practicized by the rural masses coming almost from 22 states. Moreover, India has 172000 hectare land under mulberry cultivation, 258000 handloom, 29340 power loom offering employment to huge number of farmers throughout the year (Dewagan et al., 2011). Additionally, sericulture offer effective management of natural resources as it demands little input requirement and offers high outputs gains to the farmer (Malik et al., 2008). Sericulture being an essential agro-enterprise forms an integral part of rural life practiced by 1.5 lakh rural farmer throughout the country (Shetey et al., 2007) with a potential to raise economic status of the farming community by earning high amounts of foreign exchange.
On global context, silk accounts for about 0.2% of total textile fibre production (ITC, 2000). Sericulture industry has the potential to generate employment in almost any sector associated with this industry. Employment generation in sericulture is remarkable and accounts for annual income ranging from Rs. 50000 to 100000 followed by Rs. 100000 to 150000 for 26.66% and 20% of the sericulture farmers respectively (Ali, 2010). Moreover the average incomes of the farmers practising sericulture as an additional agro enterprise are reported to be Rs.3840 per month with totally monthly expenditure of Rs.2380 (Dewangan et al., 2012). Sericulture is an important agro-based, environmental friendly and employment orientated industry. It is the only cash crop that provides attractive income to the farmer community in general, small and marginal farmers in particular. It requires a meager capital of Rs. 500 to create one job as against Rs. 10,000 or more per job in organized industrial sector (Acharya, 1993). Sericulture plays an important role in upliftment of the socio-economic life of Indian rural folk. Sericulture industry is the source of livelihood and provides employment to approximately 7.26 million persons in rural areas in India (Chanotra et al., 2022).
Jammu and Kashmir is having most congenial climate (temperate, sub temperate to sub-tropical), having the potential to offer salubrious conditions for production of quality bivoltine silk of international grade. But unfortunately the industry slipped back to take a lead position among the sericultural zones of the country due to various unavoidable reasons.
Thus, future of the modern silk industry has been identified to be closely linked with the sustainable sericulture carried on scientific lines, active and well knit extension system, production of new and improved mulberry varieties, awareness among farmers, practice of bivoltine silkworm rearing, a well organized system of production and supply of disease free eggs, use of by-products, modernization of reeling sector, rationalization of marketing of cocoons and raw silk, building of poly-houses to facilitate the production of grafts and cuttings, popularization of low cost technologies at farmer level etc. This will give an attractive image to the silk industry in the global silk markets. Besides need-based research, keeping in view the status of the rearers and their requirement can also lead to their attraction in sericulture in a big way.
(The author is Lecturer, Department of Sericulture, Poonch Campus, University of Jammu.)