Agartala, May 30 : Sericulture has emerged as a profitable employment avenue for rural folk, particularly women in Tripura.
Various government schemes for sericulture, which involves growing of mulberry trees for the leaf (which is the only food for silk worm), rearing of the silk worms and spinning of cocoon for the silk thread, are in operation in the state.
Women entrepreneurs have been given special preference under the schemes. Tribals particularly the Jhumias (nomadic farmers who slash and burn forests for cultivation) are also involved in sericulture as an alternative to Jhum cultivation.
Most of the beneficiaries use their wasteland to grow mulberry trees where farmers rear silkworms till it reaches the spinning stages of cocoon.
"We have taken to sericulture as we are able to earn handsome amount. We have formed cooperative society for women and carry out this task in our free time. Every year, we earn between 20,000 to 25,000 rupees. But the profit can be more if we are able to look after the worms properly," said Rita Paul, silkworm farmer.
India produces a variety of silks including Mulberry, Tussar, Muga and Eri depending on the feeding habit of the silkworms.
Some of the northeastern states like Assam, Manipur, Tripura and Mizoram ave accorded a fairly high priority to sericulture.
In Tripura, around 4,500 beneficiaries are directly involved in the subsidiary occupation further improving their socio-economic status.
Besides imparting technical know-how, the government also distributes silk threads to the weavers for producing the finished products like sarees, dress material through the handloom cluster co-operative societies.
"We impart knowledge about silk production to sericulturists in Tripura. We also provide them technical assistance under various schemes launched here. We have our own farm in Madhubani and conduct various activities for farmers under the action plans," said Shibayan Sen, official, Central Silk Board.
The annual production of silk in the state is little more than 6.00 metric ton worth six million rupees.
At present, only about 30 per cent yarns is being consumed for fabrics and the rest is sold outside the state.
Experts say that the agro-climatic condition of Tripura is highly favourable for extensive growth of sericulture and the allied industry has a great prospect.
"Mulberry grows very well in waste lands of Tripura. The Central Government is giving lot of emphasis for further development. So, silk has a better future until and unless a little bit of problem posed by China. But still Indian silk has a lot of demand all over the world," said Tripurandra Mohan Ganguli, Retd. Director of Handloom, Tripura.
Sericulture in Tripura is a high priority agro-based industry and plays a vital role in the economy and employment potential, particularly in the rural and semi-urban parts of the state.
India stands second only to China in silk production. While China produces 70,000 metric tons of raw silk, India is far behind at 14,200 metric tons.
According to officials, India requires 120,000 metric tons of silk to meet its share of demand in world market. With better infrastructure facility, the sericulture industry could improve its productivity to 15 per cent as against the current nine per cent.