This is a different type of silk route rivalry between the North East and neighbouring China. Incidentally, India is the second largest silk producer in the world after China but the difference is just huge. Alarmed at this rapid expansion of silk industry by China, the government is now making an effort to tap the potential of indigenous silk portfolios in the North East.
With an investment close to Rs 700 crore, 24 projects in the North East, including two in Meghalaya, would help the government meet the national raw silk production target. China is producing close to 1 lakh tonne of mulberry silk every year.
The new project aims at using the skills available in the North East and increasing its contribution of 21% to the total silk produced in the country to 24% by the end of this fiscal year. The broad objective of the scheme is to develop and modernise the textile sector in the North East Region by providing the required government support in terms of raw materials, seed banks, machinery, common facility centres, skill development, design and marketing support, among other things.
The specific objectives of the scheme include an increase in the value of textile production, technology upgradation, improving design capability, diversification of product lines and value addition, better access to domestic and export markets, clusterisation and improvement in labour productivity, market access and promotion.
The national raw silk production target for the year is 33,840 tonnes and our modest target is to contribute 7000 tonnes to it from the North East only, according to official sources. The total silk production in 2016-2107 was 30,348 tonnes with 21,273 tonnes of mulberry, 5,637 tonnes of eri, 3,268 tonnes of tussar and 170 tonnes of muga.
With these new projects, the primary target is not just to increase the production bulk but also work on the quality and make the best use of the skill in the region. Down south, raw material is produced at one place, weaving at another and finishing and selling in some other but in the North East people farm cocoon in their backyards and do the weaving themselves.
The scheme is being implemented under two broad categories: the Integrated Sericulture Development Project (ISDP) and the Intensive Bivoltine Sericulture Development Project (IBSDP) covering mulberry, eri and muga.