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Kashmir witnesses sharp decline in cocoon production as losses mount for farmers

Kashmir is witnessing a sharp decline in cocoon production in the last few years due to constant financial losses.

Officials who wished not to be named said that in last five years, the number of farmers associated with silk rearing has declined thereby declining the cocoon production.

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They said that if efforts won’t be taken at the earliest, the industry will collapse as farmers have been facing losses due to unavailability of proper technical guidance.

Farmers who have been associated with silk rearing for long told that there is unavailability of quality leaves.

They said as leaves are being damaged by insects and pests due to which farmers are unable to maintain quality and produce more cocoon.

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He said that farmers aren’t being provided technical guidance as they don’t have skills and there is need to create awareness camps and workshop to guide silk rearers.

Another farmer said that Sericulture department has failed in producing quality seed, breed of silk worms resulting in less production of cocoon.

He said farmers must be trained and quality silk worms, mulberry leaves must be kept available for them.

Farmers said that due to unavailability of quality leaves, silk worms and less scientific intervention along technical guidance farmers have been facing losses and several farmers have already switched to other businesses.

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A top official of the department told KNO that during 2017-18, over 27,181 farmers were associated with cocoon rearing in Kashmir thereby producing 893 metric tons of cocoons and generating an income of about Rs 22.337 crore.

However, in year 2018-19, the number of farmers declined to 25,000, thereby producing 790 metric tons (MT) and generating revenue of Rs 23.486 crore.

An official said that in the year 2019-20, the number of farmers further declined to around 24,000 and the production increased to around 810 metric tons (MT) and Rs 17.845 crore revenue was generated.

He said that during 2020-21, due to Covid-19 pandemic the number of farmers declined to around 22,000 thereby producing just 563 MT of cocoons and generating only Rs 12.183 crore.

However, in 2021-22, the number of farmers increased again to around 25,000, thereby 694 MT of cocoons and generating an amount of Rs 17.185 crore.

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In year 2021-22, the number of farmers increased again and there was marginal increase in production and income as well, he said.

“About 70 percent of cocoons are exported to other states while only 30 percent buyers are locals,” he added.

He said that department is making efforts to revive sericulture sector to double production in next five years.

“The Jammu and Kashmir government has already approved an ambitious project worth Rs 91 crore for the revival and revitalization of the silk industry in the UT through technological interventions,” he said.

The project, according to an official, contains end-to-end interventions, right from the availability of mulberry leaves to better seed and worm production and finally, augmentation of reeling facilities to double the number of cocoons produced in J&K and boost value addition by establishing a state-of-the-art automatic reeling facility at Jammu.

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“The number of farmers has started to increase as under this project, they are getting every facility free of cost, he said.

“The number of farmers will be increased by 7000 and we are expecting marginal increase this year as well. Around 10 lakh hybrid variety mulberry trees will be planted in J&K by farmers including 4 lakh in Kashmir and 6 lakh in Jammu. Farmers will get Rs 70 per plant so that quality mulberry leaves shall be produced,” he said.

“1700 rearing sheds costing around 2.15 lakhs each have been sanctioned and farmers will have give just 10 percent (labour component) while 90 percent it will be free for them and steps for disease management and technical guidance free of cost will be given to farmers,” he added.

“We are planning to double local seed production and special attention is being given towards quality so that farmers will generate more and more income,”

According to the government, the sericulture department has 173 mulberry nurseries spread over an area of 963 acres, and 374 mulberry blocks over an area of 2215 acres spread across the UT.

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Kashmir is known for the best quality silk, exported all over the world. Over 27000 families in Jammu and Kashmir are said to be associated with silk worm rearing, out of which 8,900 families are from the Valley and rest from Jammu division—(KNO)

Jahangeer Ganaie

Jahangeer Ganaie is a Pulwama based journalist, currently south head with News agency KNO and owner of The Kashmir Scroll

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