India’s dependence on China for the import of high-quality silk is likely to come down in the next 3-4 years, with the country striving to become self-sufficient in silk production by 2022.
In 2016-17, India imported close to 3,700 tonnes of high-quality silk from China, compared to close to 7,000 tonnes in 2013-14.
According to KK Shetty, Joint Secretary, Central Silk Board, the decrease in import volumes has been primarily on the back of an increase in production of the ‘better quality’ bivoltine silk.
“While the total production of raw silk recorded an annual growth rate of around 5 per cent, that of bivoltine silk [which is considered to be superior quality] has grown by 12-13 per cent. With the production of indigenous high-quality silk increasing, our imports are likely to come down,” Shetty told BusinessLine.
The production of bivoltine, which is also an import-substitute-quality silk, increased from 2,559 tonnes in 2013-14 to 5,266 tonnes in 2016-17. Bivoltine production is likely to touch 6,200 tonnes in 2017-18. Once the production touches the targeted 12,000 tonnes by 2022, the country would no longer need to import Chinese silk, he said. The country’s total raw silk production increased to 30,348 tonnes in 2016-17 (around 26,480 tonne in 2013-14), and is expected to touch close to 33,000 tonne in 2017-18. Central Silk Board estimates total production of raw silk to touch 45,000 tonnes in 2022.
The government has allocated close to ₹2,000 crore for a period of three years (FY’18-FY’20) under the Central Sector Scheme for undertaking development activities for silk. A portion of the funds would be utilised for improving production of high quality silk, he said.
Despite a rise in production, the country’s exports declined in value terms – from approximately ₹2,500 crore in 2015-16 to close to ₹2,093 crore in FY’17. Exports are likely to remain close to ₹2,000 crore in the current year due to muted demand from key importing countries, including Europe and the US.
Silk exports include natural silk yarn, fabrics and made-ups, ready-made garments, silk carpets and silk waste.
“Our exports are declining on a year-on-year basis because we are not able to compete with Chinese prices and quality. We are slowly losing out our competitive edge and key markets,” said Dilip Agarwal, Treasurer, Silk Association of India.
This has made the industry look at other geographies. According to Bimal Mawandia, Vice Chairman, The Indian Silk Promotion Council, the Centre has been also encouraging diversification into other markets to boost exports.
“We are looking at new markets such as Egypt, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand, among others, but it takes time to establish as the product requirement and specification is different in each of these markets,” he said.