Overview of Sericulture



About Silk

                        No other fabric has fascinated man so continuously over millennia as silk.  It is royal in its splendor, exotic and sensuous in its radiance.  An aura of luxury has always surrounded and still surrounds, cloths made of silk.  No other fabric drapes more beautifully or flatters the body more than silk.  Silken shine, silken soft, and silken smooth – these epithets show that the queen of fabrics is a symbol of beauty, plain and simple.


                        Sericulture is an art of rearing silkworm for the production of cocoons which is the raw material for the production of silk.  India has the unique distinction of being the only country producing all the five kinds of silk – Mulberry, Eri, Muga, Tropical Tasar and Temperate Tasar.  But in Tamil Nadu, mostly mulberry silk is produced.  The larva of mulberry silk moth, Bombyx mori, is a domesticated form which feeds on the leaves of Mulberry tree, Morus alba.  The larva of mulberry silk moth grows for about 20-23 days feeding mulberry leaves.  The fully matured larva spins to protect itself just before the pupa stage, a cocoon out of the most expensive and purest of threads, silk.

Sericulture Activities


                        Cultivation of mulberry plants is referred to as Moriculture.  It is an agricultural activity.  In Tamil Nadu, mulberry cultivation is mainly taken up in irrigated condition.  Flat, deep, fertile, well drained loamy and clay loamy with good moisture holding capacity soil is ideal for mulberry cultivation. 

 Silkworm Seed Production

                        The silkworm seed production centers are referred to as grainages.  The silkworm seed known as Disease Free Layings (DFLs) are prepared in the grainages and supplied to the farmers for rearing.  Both Government and private sector grainages are involved in this activity.

 Silkworm Rearing

                        Silkworm Rearing is considered to be an agro based cottage industry since it involves mulberry cultivation. Silkworms are reared for the production of “cocoons” which is the raw material for silk production.  The farmers rear silkworms and produce cocoons.  By marketing the cocoons farmers earn money.  It is ideally suited for the rural areas.  Silkworms are reared in well ventilated rearing shed by following shoot rearing method.

 Marketing of cocoons

                        The farmers can sell the cocoon produced by them in the nearest Govt. Cocoon Markets.  In the cocoon markets reasonable floor price is fixed by scientific methods and the final selling price is decided in the open auction.  Here, silk reelers buy the cocoons produced by the farmers for producing silk.

Silk Reeling

                        Extraction of silk filament from cocoons by employing a set of processes is known as silk reeling.  Presently silk reeling is mainly done using four types of reeling devices viz. Charka, Cottage basins, Multi-end reeling machines and  Automatic Reeling Machines.  Poor quality cocoons can be reeled economically on charka. 

                        Charka is a primitive device with which it is not possible to produce quality silk.  Even though the cottage basin produces better quality silk compared to charka, it still falls short of gradable silk.  Only with multiend reeling device gradable quality silk can be produced.

                         The latest version of silk reeling device is the automatic silk reeling machines.  It produces International grade export quality Rawsilk.

                         The silk obtained out of the reeling process is referred to as “Raw Silk”.  It is the silk reeled by drawing together the filaments from a number of cocoons (6 – 12) based on the thickness required for weaving sector. 

 Marketing of Raw silk

                         The raw silks produced by the silk reelers are marketed directly to the weavers or through Silk Exchanges functioning in the Sericultural States.

                        In the Silk Exchanges all the raw silk lots brought by the silk reelers are tested for quality.  On the basis of quality of raw silk and the price prevailed in major marketing centre, floor price is fixed and then they are auctioned.  The Silk Exchange enables the reelers to get immediate payment for the raw silk transacted by them.

Silk Weaving

                        The raw silk cannot be directly used for weaving.  The raw silk is to be twisted before they are fed into looms.  The operation of conversion of raw silk into twisted silk, is termed as twisting.  The twisted silk is referred to as Ready Silk.  Twisting is undertaken either by separate entrepreneurs or by the weavers themselves. The silk weaving is done either on handlooms or power looms.  The traditional silk sarees and dhoties are made on handlooms whereas the printed sarees, dress materials, etc., are made on power looms.

Sericulture in India

                        In India, Sericulture is essentially a village-based industry providing employment to a sizable section of the population.  Although Sericulture is considered as a subsidiary occupation, technological innovation has made it possible to take it up on an intensive scale capable of generating adequate income.  It is also capable of providing continuous income to farmers.

                        India is the second largest producer of silk in the world with an annual silk production of around 35,000 M.Tons. All the known varieties of silk, viz. Mulberry, Eri, Muga and Tasar are produced in India.  Mulberry silk is the most popular variety in India, contributing more than 72% of the Country’s silk production.  Silk and silk goods are very good foreign exchange earners.  Export potential of this sector is promising.

                        In India, because of the prevalence of favourable climatic conditions, mulberry is cultivated mainly in five states, viz., Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Jammu & Kashmir.  These five states collectively account for 94%  of mulberry raw silk production in the country.  Now, as a result of growing realization, sericulture is gaining ground in non-traditional areas too. Most of the silk produced in the country is from multi x bi hybrids which is inferior in quality and cannot meet the international standard as well as the domestic needs of the power loom sector.  Majority of the silk produced in India is consumed for producing sarees mainly on handlooms.  Bivoltine silk excels in quality and is mostly produced in country having temperate climate.  Hence the power loom weavers prefer imported superior quality silk.

                        The present global scenario clearly indicates the enormous opportunities for the Indian Silk Industry.  The need of the hour is to produce more bivoltine silk with reduced cost of production to meet the growing demands of quality silk.  Realising this, the Government is taking all out efforts to boost bivoltine production in the country.

Sericulture in Tamil Nadu

            When the states were reorganized on linguistic basis in 1956, Sericulture was practiced in limited pockets of Hosur and Talavady regions in the State. Then with the implementation of many developmental schemes in the State Sericulture activity was introduced into the plains of the State.  To encourage development of the activity in the State, the Government upgraded the Sericulture wing functioning under the Department of Industries and Commerce to function as a separate Department of Sericulture headed by a Director, from the year 1979 with Headquarters at Salem.  After formation of the Department, infrastructure facilities like Seed Farms, Cocoon Markets, Silk Reeling units, Sericulture Training Centres and Silk Exchange were established.

                        At present (upto 31.03.2019) about 25237 farmers are practicing Sericulture in Tamil Nadu, cultivating 49716.90 acres of mulberry.  This gives employment opportunities to 2,32,850 persons.

                        Tamil Nadu occupies fourth position in the country in Mulberry Silk production and second position in Bivoltine Silk production .   The annual silk production in Tamil Nadu is around 2000 Metric Tons. 

                        Tamil Nadu is well known for its traditional silk sarees and dhoties woven on handlooms.  The weaving sector of Tamil Nadu comprises mostly of Handlooms. Kancheepuram, Arni, Kumbakonam, Salem and Coimbatore are important weaving centres in Tamil Nadu.


Infrastructure of the Department of Sericulture, TamilNadu

                        For implementing various developmental schemes of the Department, the following infrastructure facilities are available in the State.

·     Five Regional Offices and 26 offices of the Asst. Directors are functioning. 

·     An office headed by a Deputy Director is functioning at Hosur, to monitor silkworm seed co-ordination. 

·     TamilNadu Sericulture Training Institute at Hosur, headed by a Principal / Deputy Director, is functioning for imparting Sericulture training to farmers and staff. 

·     For the distribution of silkworm layings to the sericulturists 11 Govt. grainages 2 Central Silk Board grainages in Tamil Nadu. 

·     For providing marketing facilities for the cocoons produced by the Sericulturists, 20 cocoon markets are functioning. 

·     Nineteen seed farms for the production of seed cocoons and  Two  P1 grainages are functioning for the production of seed layings. 

·     Thirty two Govt. Silk Farms are engaged in providing training to the sericulturists, distributing mulberry saplings, chawkie worms to the sericulturists and educating the sericulture farmers. 

·     For the silk reeling 8 Govt. Silk Reeling units are functioning in the State, of which 3 units are Reeling cum  Silk twisting units, which are functioning as Pilot Centres.

·    A Silk Exchange headed by a Deputy Director is functioning at Kancheepuram and its branch at Salem for ensuring fair transaction of Raw silk. 

·     Tamil Nadu Co-operative Silk Producers Federation, TANSILK an apex co-operative body, with Headquarters at Kancheepuram and with branches at Kancheepuram, Arni, Kumbakonam, Salem,  Erode and Coimbatore are functioning for the purchase of raw silk and ready silk and supply them to the Handloom Weavers Co-operative Societies and other weaving sectors.

Central Silk Board

                        For the development of silk industry in India, the Central Silk Board is a statutory body, is functioning under the administrative control of the Ministry of Textiles, Govt. of India, with its Headquarters at Bangalore.

                        The following are the important functions assigned to the Board.

1.    Promoting the development of silk industry by such measures as it thinks fit.

2.   Undertaking, assisting and encouraging scientific, technological and Economic Research.

3.   Devising means for improved methods of mulberry cultivation, silkworm rearing, developing and distributing healthy silkworm seeds, improving methods of silk reeling, improving the quality and production of raw silk.

4.   Improving the marketing of raw silk.

5.   The collection and compilation of statistics.

6.   Advising the Govt. of India on all matters relating to the development of silk industry including import and export of raw silk.

Central Silk Board’s Nested Units in Tamil Nadu

·      A Regional Sericultural Research Station is functioning at Salem.

·     Central Sericultural Germplasm Resource Centre at Hosur.

·     A Silk Testing Service Centre at Salem.

·     Two P2 Basic Seed Farms at Kumbarapalli (Krishnagiri District) and Yealgiri Hills (Vellore District).

·     Two Silkworm seed production centres at Dharmapuri (Dharmapuri District) and  Hosur (Krishnagiri District).

·     Four Research Extension Centres at Gobi (Erode District), Udumalpet (Coimbatore District)  Samayanallur (Madurai District)  and Krishnagiri (Krishnagiri District)

·     A Satellite Silkworm Breeding Station at Coonoor (Nilgiris District).

·    A Regional Silk Technological Research Station at Kancheepuram.

Central Silk Board’s support services to Tamil Nadu

·     With its nested units of Central Silk Board undertakes Regional specific research, produce and distribute silkworm seed, conduct field trials, transfer the technologies developed in the Research Station to the field and to improve the quality aspects of cocoon and silk.

·     Training staff, farmers, reelers, etc., as per specific needs.

·     For some of the schemes under implementation in Tamil Nadu, Central Silk Board is assisting the State by providing 50% of the funds required for the schemes.

Private sector involvement in Sericulture in TamilNadu

·     About 25237 farmers are practicing sericulture, cultivating 49716.90 acres of mulberry.  They are involved in the production of cocoons, the raw material for the production of silk.

·     38 Private Chawkie rearing centres and 100 Micro CRCs are functioning in the state for supplying chawkie silkworm to the Sericulturists.

·     About 1096 private silk reeling devices are functioning in the State.  The private silk reeling entrepreneurs procure the cocoons produced by the Sericulturists through the Govt. Cocoon Markets in the State and produce raw silk.