Assam third among silk producing states
Eri, often referred to as “poor man’s silk”, has helped Assam rank among the top three silk producing states of the country.
According to Central Silk Board, Assam has climbed to the third spot, up from fifth last year, thanks to robust eri silk production.
Called poor man’s silk because it requires minimum infrastructure for production and is practised by the poorer sections of society, eri is the product of a domesticated silkworm, Philosamia ricini, which feeds mainly on castor leaves.
According to 2011-12 figures, Assam’s silk production stands at 2,109 metric tonnes, next only to Andhra Pradesh (6,019MT) and Karnataka (7,800MT). Of the state’s total production, muga accounts for 115 metric tonnes and mulberry 18 metric tonnes, whileeri rules the roost at 1,976 metric tonnes.
“Tremendous efforts have been put into increasing the production of eri silk and promoting it, which has now paid off,” Sarat Deori, joint secretary, Central Silk Board Northeast, told The Telegraph.
In the Eleventh Plan, the Centre had allocated Rs 84.66 crore for eri production alone.
Deori said there was a lot of scope for product diversification using the silk, as it could be blended with others fibres, and added that the eco-friendly silk had a huge international market.
Eri behaves like cotton and is warm like wool. Because of its coarseness, the yarn can be blended with other yarns and made suitable for manufacturing all varieties of fabrics, dress material, ornamental fabrics along with thicker fabrics like chaddar, wall hangings and furnishings and hosiery fabrics.
Four varieties of silk (mulberry, eri, muga and oak tasar) are produced in the Northeast and the region contributed 15 per cent of the total production of silk in the country at the end of the Eleventh Plan period. Production of raw silk in the Northeast at the end of Tenth Plan (2006-07) was 1,653 metric tonnes, which has increased to 3,385 metric tonnes at the end of Eleventh Plan (2011-12) — a 105 per cent increase, a major part of which is eri production.
Deori said product diversification was non-existent earlier, adding that eri got prominence since the Ninth Plan.
B. Choudhury, a scientist at Central Muga Eri Research and Training Institute, Jorhat, said there was sufficient potential to increase production. “Assam has all the four varieties of silk and can even reach the second spot,” he said.
Dilip Barooah, managing director of Fabric Plus, a textile firm that deals in muga, eri and other silks, said eri had a great future and great possibilities. “We have finally understood the value of eri,” he said. The company has already started hand-spinning the yarn at Mirza in Kamrup district.
The Planning Commission-constituted working group for textiles and jute industry for the Twelfth Plan has proposed more support for eri silk like setting up of mobile testing and certification units to ensure disease-free seed cocoons and for strengthening and establishing a systematic eri seed production programme.