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Karnataka's mulberry silk sector losing sheen

The state's overall share in India's mulberry acreage declined to 39% last year from 49% five years ago

Mahesh Kulkarni  |  Bangalore 

Karnataka, the largest producer of silk in India, is seeing a steady decline in mulberry acreage. In 2012-13, it fell 18.9 per cent to 74,128 hectares, compared with 91,434 hectares in 2007-08.

The state’s overall share in India’s mulberry acreage declined to 39 per cent last year from 49 per cent five years ago. As on March 31, 2013, the country's overall mulberry acreage stood at 192,126 hectares.

During the same period, the contribution of neighbouring Andhra Pradesh increased from 19 per cent to 22 per cent. This was attributed to scrupulous implementation of improved packages for mulberry cultivation, according to the Central Silk Board (CSB). Together, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu produce 80 per cent of India's mulberry silk. As silkworms feed solely on mulberry leaves, mulberry acreage is widely used to assess growth in sericulture.

In Karnataka, the fall in mulberry acreage was due to fact that between 2007-08 and 2012-13, plants were uprooted across 55,694 hectares, more than the area added during this period. Also, the area added was only 38,388 hectares, against the target of 122,000 hectares, according to a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

The decline in mulberry acreage has hit raw silk production in the state. In 2012-13, production stood at 7,063 tonnes, 2.4 per cent lower than 7,238 tonnes in 2008-09. Compared to the production of 7,796 tonnes in 2011-12, the decline was 9.4 per cent. In 2012-13, India’s overall mulberry silk production rose 2.42 per cent to 18,715 tonnes from 18,272 tonnes in 2011-12.

Between 2007-08 and 2012-13, production of raw silk ranged between 89.65 and 117.04 kg a hectare, a year. The lowest productivity was reported during 2009-10, despite the mulberry acreage being the highest at that time. The state sericulture department attributed the low productivity in 2009-10 to drought conditions. The low productivity in 2011-12 and 2012-13 was attributed to shortage of technical staff.

“The highest productivity of 117.04 kg a hectare a year achieved in the state was less than the lowest productivity (134.79 kg a hectare a year) recorded in Andhra Pradesh. This shows the pioneer status of Karnataka is losing ground, as productivity of raw silk in Karnataka was less than in Andhra Pradesh,” CAG said in a report tabled in the state legislature.

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First Published: Sat, February 22 2014. 22:28 IST