Bangladesh and Global Silk: A Pen Picture28 October 2020 Dr. Sonjoy Chakraborty
1. Introduction: In 2018 Global production of Silk is 159.64 thousand Metric tons where as Bangladesh produces only 44 Metric tons (ISC, 2018) .China produces around 75% and India produce 22% of global Silk that is these two countries jointly produce 97% of global silk. Both of the country is the nearest country of Bangladesh. Silk is important not only for the industrial and economic purpose, but also important for the ancient traditional cloth. In 1981, total production of Silk was 134 Metric Ton which reduces only in 24 Metric Ton in 2013. At present it is slightly increases at 44 Metric Ton. In 2005, National Silk Policy was adopted to reach the silk production from 34 Metric tons to 444 Metric tons in 2015, but this policy did not implement. On the other side, the country is losing a lot of foreign currency for importing silk and silk good from mostly India and China. Geopolitical point of view, Silk can enhance the relationship among these two countries to Bangladesh. Bangladesh is a capital hunger country. India is importing a lot of raw silk from China. If India invests in Bangladesh for producing raw silk, India will be benefited financially and geopolitically. This can create the Indian investment opportunity in Bangladesh for producing raw silk as Bangladesh has structure for the producing silk like Silk Board, Silk Research Institute, Silk Foundation. But there are few weak are for the development of Silk industry in Bangladesh. First one is, comparatively silk is less attractively like mango, rice and other vegetable at present in Bangladesh due to the proper scientific and economic research for the silk industry. So, for the development of the Silk industry, little serious economic and scientific research is essential. On the other hand, at present, Silk Board is headed by Minister and many other important people, which was earlier headed by the chief of the Silk Board. It becomes very tough to execute a meeting and to implement proper decision proper time. By overcoming these hindrance, Silk can get its previous heroic salutation and Bangladesh can harvest many economic and geopolitical gain.
Silk is soft and yet strong protein acetous fiber that is naturally produced by certain arthropods, and with some forms, particularly that produced by the mulberry silkworm, Bombyx mori, woven into important and luxurious textiles. In addition to clothing, silk is used for a variety of uses, including upholstery, wall coverings, rugs, bedding and wall hangings.
Natural fiber textiles absorb sweat and release it into the air, a process called "wicking" that creates natural ventilation. The "breathability" of natural fiber textiles makes their wearers less prone to skin rashes, burning and allergies often caused by synthetics and that is why natural fiber is healthier, eco-friendly, reduces global poverty by absorbing more unemployment and for that reason 2009 is celebrated as International Year of Natural Fibers.
While the best-known and commercially important silk is obtained from the cocoons of the the domesticated moth Bombyx mori, feeds solely on the leaves of mulberry trees and produces the finest, most lustrous fiber.
Initially developed about 5000 years ago in China, for many years silk was a primary commodity traded by China with the West along the Silk Road, the silk production process was a carefully guarded secret for thousands of years. The guarding of this secret, at threat of death, perhaps suggested current ethical issues related to technology transfer and the intellectual property rights of states (state sovereignty) and corporations versus the common heritage of humanity. Today, at least 70 million pounds of raw silk are produced each year in many nations, requiring nearly ten billion pounds of mulberry leaves. The annual world production represents 70 billion miles of silk filament, a distance well over 300 round trips to the sun. China and then India remains by far the larger producer and exporter of silk.
3. Evolution of silk
Historical evidence shows that silk was discovered in China and that the industry spread from there to other parts of the world. Mankind has always loved this glittering fiber of unparalleled dignity from the moment Chinese Empress Shiling Ti discovered it in her tea cup during 2640 BC. The earliest authentic reference to silk is to be found in the Chronicles of Chou-King (2200 BC), where silk figured prominently in public ceremonies as a symbol of homage to the emperors.
The silk industry originated in the province of Chan-Tong and the secret was jealously guarded by the Chinese for about 3000 years. When commercial relations were established between China and Persia, and later with other countries, the export of raw silk and silk goods assumed greater importance. Traders from ancient Persia (now Iran) used to bring richly coloured and fine textured silks from Chinese merchants through hazardous routes interspersed with dangerous mountainous terrains, difficult passes, dry deserts and thick forests. Though, commodities like orange, glass, spices and tea were also traded along with silk, which indeed rapidly became one of the principal elements of the Chinese economy and hence, the trade route got the name ‘SILK ROUTE’.
According to some sources, the first country after China to learn the secret was Korea, where Chinese immigrants started sericulture in about 1200 BC (ISC website). The industry later spread to Japan. According to another version, what was instrumental in bringing the silk industry to Japan during the third century B.C. was when Semiramus, a General in the army of Empress Singu-Kongo, invaded and conquered Korea. Among his prisoners were some sericulturists whom he brought back to Japan. Under royal patronage the industry continued, till the Meiji Restoration in 1868. During the latter part of the 19th century, Japan gave serious attention to the development of the industry by introducing the use of modern machinery and improved techniques and carrying out intensive research in sericulture science. The industry is said to have spread to Tibet when a Chinese princess, carrying silkworm eggs and mulberry tree seeds in her headdress, married the King of Khotan in Tibet. From Tibet the industry spread slowly to India and Persia.
By the first century B.C. markets as far in southern Europe began to receive silk fabrics made in the East. According to Western historians, mulberry tree cultivation had spread to India through Tibet by about 140 B.C. and the cultivation of mulberry trees and the rearing of silkworms began in the areas flanking the Brahmaputra and Ganges rivers. According to some other Indian scholars, silkworms (Bombyx mori) were first domesticated in the foothills of the Himalayas. There is also evidence in ancient Sanskrit literature that certain kind of wild silks were cultivated in India from time immemorial. After the British arrival in India the silk industry had flourished and spread to many other areas like, Mysore, Jammu & Kashmir, etc.
The Arabs were also familiar with silkworms and even in Pre-Islamic times studied the life history of the silkworm. It has been suggested on the basis of early legends that the Arabs obtained silkworm eggs and mulberry tree seed from India during the early part of the Christian era.
By the Fourth Century A.D., sericulture was well established in India and Central Asia. Raw silk and silken goods were exported from the East to Persia and then to Rome. The Persians held a monopoly on some of the silken goods most prized by Roman society but in the 6th century A.D. two monks from Rome, having learnt the art of sericulture in Tibet, introduced the industry into Constantinople in 553 A.D. The Romans were thus able to produce their own raw silk and this marked the beginning of silk production in Europe. For three or four Centuries, the rearing of silkworms was confined to the eastern areas of the Roman Empire and factories were set up in Athens, Corinth, and the Aegean Islands for manufacture of silk fabrics.
The industry moved gradually from the east to the Venetian Republic and by the end of the Ninth Century and during the tenth and Eleventh Centuries the Venetians developed the industry to such an extent that they were able to meet almost the entire requirements of Europe.
From Italy, the industry spread to France where silkworm rearing was introduced in 1340 by French noblemen who brought in the silkworm eggs and the mulberry tree seeds. The industry was firmly established in France by the end of 17th Century and prospered during the 18th century. In 19th Century, when sericulture was at its peak in France, an epidemic called pebrine – a destructive disease of silkworms – broke out and wiped out sericulture not only in France but major part of Europe and the Middle East. Sir Louis Pasteur in 1870 discovered that pebrine could be controlled by the examination of mother moth that saved the industry from extinction. Although the industry revived to some extent in France, it was not a complete revival mainly because of socio-economic changes and industrialization.
4. Types of silk
There are four types of natural silk which are commercially known and produced in the world. Among them mulberry silk is the most important and contributes as much as 90 per cent of world production, therefore, the term "silk" in general refers to the silk of the Mulberry silkworm. Three other commercially important types fall into the category of non-Mulberry silks namely: Eri silk; Tasar silk; and Muga silk. There are also other types of non-Mulberry silk, which are mostly wild and exploited in Africa and Asia, are Anaphe silk, Fagara silk, Coan silk, Mussel silk and Spider silk.
Bulk of the commercial silk produced in the world comes from this variety and often generally refers to Mulberry silk. Mulberry silk comes from the silkworm, Bombyx mori L which solely feeds on the leaves of Mulberry plant. These silkworms are completely domesticated and reared indoors. Mulberry silk contributes to around 90 percent of the world silk production.
The tasar silkworms belong to the genus Antheraea and they are all wild silkworms. There are many varieties such as the Chinese tasar silkworm Antherae pernyi Guerin which produces the largest quantity of non-mulberry silk in the world, the Indian tasar silkworm Antheraea mylitte Dury, next in importance, and the Japanese tasar silkworm Antheraea yamamai Querin which is peculiar to Japan and produces green silk thread.
The Chinese and Japanese tasar worms feed on oak leaves and other allied species. The Indian tasar worms feeds on leaves of Terminalia and several other minor host plants. The worms are either uni- or bivoltine and their cocoons like the mulberry silkworm cocoons can be reeled into raw silk.
The Chinese and Japanese tasar worms feed on oak leaves and other allied species. The Indian tasar worms feeds on leaves of Terminalia and several other minor host plants. The worms are either uni- or bivoltine and their cocoons like the mulberry silkworm cocoons can be reeled into raw silk.
These belong to either of two species namely Samia ricini and Philosamia ricini. P.ricini (also called as castor silkworm) is a domesticated one reared on castor oil plant leaves to produce a white or brick-red silk popularly known as Eri silk.
Since the filament of the cocoons spun by these worms is neither continuous nor uniform in thickness, the cocoons cannot be reeled and, therefore, the moths are allowed to emerge and the pierced cocoons are used for spinning to produce the Eri silk yarn.
The muga silkworms (Antheraea assamensis) also belong to the same genus as tasar worms, but produce an unusual golden-yellow silk thread which is very attractive and strong. These are found only in the state of Assam, India and feed on Persea bombycina and Litsaea monopetala leaves and those of other species.
The quantity of muga silk produced is quite small and is mostly used for the making of traditional dresses in the State of Assam (India) itself.
This silk of southern and central Africa is produced by silkworms of the genus Anaphe: A. moloneyi Druce, A. panda Boisduval, A. reticulate Walker, A. ambrizia Butler, A. carteri Walsingham, A. venata Butler and A. infracta Walsingham. They spin cocoons in communes, all enclosed by a thin layer of silk.
The tribal people collect them from the forest and spin the fluff into a raw silk that is soft and fairly lustrous. The silk obtained from A. infracta is known locally as "book", and those from A. moleneyi as "Trisnian-tsamia" and "koko" (Tt). The fabric is elastic and stronger than that of mulberry silk. Anaphe silk is used, for example, in velvet and plush.
Fagara silk is obtained from the giant silk moth Attacus atlas L. and a few other related species or races inhabiting the Indo-Australian bio-geographic region, China and Sudan. They spin light-brown cocoons nearly 6 cm long with peduncles of varying lengths (2-10 cm).
The larvae of Pachypasa atus D., from the Mediterranean bio-geographic region (southern Italy, Greece, Romania, Turkey, etc.), feed primarily on trees such as pine, ash cypress, juniper and oak.
They spin white cocoons measuring about 8.9 cm x 7.6 cm. In ancient times, this silk was used to make the crimson-dyed apparel worn by the dignitaries of Rome; however, commercial production came to an end long ago because of the limited output and the emergence of superior varieties of silk.
Whereas the non-mulberry silks previously described are of insect origin, mussel silk is obtained from a bivalve, Pinna squamosa, found in the shallow waters along the Italina and Dalmatian shores of the Adriatic.
The strong brown filament, or byssus, is secreted by the mussel to anchor it to a rock or other surface. The byssus is combed and then spun into a silk popularly known as “fish wool”. Its production is largely confined to Taranto, Italy.
Spider silk – another non-insect variety – is soft and fine, but also strong and elastic. The commercial production of this silk comes from certain Madagascan species, including Nephila madagascarensis, Miranda aurentia and Epeira.
5. Merits of Silk Industry
• The industry activities align with the 4 major Millennium Development Goals set by UN like; eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, promote gender equality and empower women, ensuring environmental sustainability, and develop a global partnership for development.
• High Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) in comparison to any other rural avocation due to which silk industry has emerged as the ideal tool for employment generation and rural development.
• Major participation (80%) by the tribal (in China and India) and downtrodden people, due to which significantly contribute to the poverty alleviation programmes of the Government.
• Participation of women (60%) and family members leads to higher income flow to the family.
• 60% of the income from the sericulture industry is flowing to the primary producers; i.e. farmers.
• Enable flow of equity from rich (the higher level consumers) to poor (the farmers, reelers, weavers etc.)
• Prevents urban migration and contribute to preserve the bio-diversity of rural areas and natural vanya food plant forest areas.
• Low investment and higher return, short gestation period, and steady income throughout the year.
• The activities are simple and can be taken by women and other family members along with their regular house hold chores.
• Eco-friendly production process, increases green cover, helps soil conservation and prevents soil erosion.
• The waste generated from the industry could be utilized various useful purposes.
• A strong and assured domestic demand for silk and silk products which is consistently in the upward trajectory for the last 5 decades.
• Increasing consumption of silk products witnessed in most of the developed countries leads to high demand in global market also.
• Foreign exchange earning opportunity for the developing countries.
6. Scenario of sericulture from export and employment generation viewpoint
Silk is small sector. Being an important and potential means of generating employment opportunities, sericulture and silk industry can play a crucial role in export trade, earn much needed foreign currency and thus contribute to economic development for the nation. There is great demand for silk products all over the world and demand is increasing everyday. The silk products of Bangladesh are known to the world and have already earned good reputation. That is why here is an ample scope for Bangladesh to enter into the world silk market.
There is no export of silk products from the public sector. The private sector however, exports a very small quantity of silk fabrics to few countries like India, Hong kong, Malaysia, Norway, UAE, Denmark, Spain, and Taiwan in the world. Export achievements of private sector in different fiscal years are shown in Figure 3.
Though the economic growth of Bangladesh is good but the country suffers from chronic employment. Reduction of poverty and socioeconomic development is possible through the creation of productive employment opportunity.
Employment opportunities in sericulture and silk industry may be divided into two categories direct and indirect. Under direct employment category the actual Seri producers such as planter, roarers, weavers and printers and indirect employment includes those persons who are engaged in preparation of rearing application (example, dala or tray), Seri related trade (for example, preparation of disinfectant, dyes, chemicals, machinery accessories etc.) and trading in raw silk and finished fabrics. In a survey of Bangladesh Sericulture Board conducted in 1980-81 total employment was 43700 people and 1987-88 was 140,000 people that was growing period of sericulture but now the present scenario is reverse. When only the public silk firms of Bangladesh Government (Rajshahi and Thakurgaon) are closed on November 30, 2002 at that time the total employee was 358 of these two. (Source: Bangladesh Sericulture Board (BSB). Currently the number of total employee is 425 under Bangladesh Sericulture Board (BSB). As the public firms are closed, only the domestic and foreign private firms can create many direct and indirect employment opportunity in this sector.
7. Global Silk Industry
The major silk producing countries in the world are; China, India, Uzbekistan, Brazil, Japan, Republic of Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, DPR Korea, Iran, Bangladesh, etc. Few other countries are also engaged in the production of cocoons and raw silk in negligible quantities; Kenya, Botswana, Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Colombia, Egypt, Japan, Nepal, Bulgaria, Turkey, Uganda, Malaysia, Romania, Bolivia, etc.
The major silk consumers of the world are; USA, Italy, Japan, India, France, China, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, UAE, Korea, Viet Nam, etc.
Even though silk has a small percentage of the global textile market - less than 0.2% (the precise global value is difficult to assess, since reliable data on finished silk products is lacking in most importing countries) - its production base is spread over 60 countries in the world. While the major producers are in Asia (90% of mulberry production and almost 100% of non-mulberry silk), sericulture industries have been lately established in Brazil, Bulgaria, Egypt and Madagascar as well. Sericulture is labour-intensive. About 1 million workers are employed in the silk sector in China. Silk Industry provides employment to 7.9 million people in India, and 20,000 weaving families in Thailand. China is the world's single biggest producer and chief supplier of silk to the world markets. India is the world's second largest producer. Sericulture can help keeping the rural population employed and to prevent migration to big cities and securing remunerative employment; it requires small investments while providing raw material for textile industries.
A. Global Silk Production (Metric Ton)
Source: International Sericulture Commission, 2013
As in Japan, silk production in the Republic of Korea continues to decline, largely because of industrialization. Labour-intensive sericulture has become too costly in these two countries and they now have to rely increasingly on imported silk to meet domestic needs. Japan remains one of the world's largest markets for silk products and its imports of silk products continue to rise. The Republic of Korea maintains an ample silk-processing capacity; it is now importing silk yarn and grey fabrics to be finished for export. The quality of printing silk fabrics in particular has improved in the country and finished silk fabrics, ladies' silk scarves and men's silk neckties have been exported in increasing quantities.
Silk fabrics are produced either on hand-looms or on power looms. The bulk of the silk woven in China comes from power looms; production in Thailand and India is largely done on hand-looms. However, the use of the power loom is expanding; this is particularly so in India where the increasing domestic demand for saris is justifying the increased use of this type of loom. Viet Nam continues to develop its silk-weaving industry, mainly on power looms. Practically all weaving in Brazil and the Republic of Korea is carried out on power looms.
Because of the special characteristics of hand-loom silk fabrics, it has been essential to educate buyers/importers and, where necessary, consumers as well, about the slight variations in color shades, the unevenness of the weave, etc. that occur in hand-loom weaving. This applies particularly to repeat orders, which will not necessarily fully match the shades of the initial order.
Textiles and garments
It is difficult to assess the value of the world trade in silk garments and accessories as national trade statistics are either not standardized or not detailed enough. In most countries, for instance, silk garments are normally classified with garments of other fibers such as linen, cashmere and ramie. For the same reason it is practically impossible to find reliable global data on the value of international trade in hand-loomed silk fabrics. Especially in India and Thailand, the most experienced producers of this type of silk fabrics, the majority of silk fabric exports are fabrics woven by hand-looms.
Nonetheless, the international trade in silk textiles and garments can be safely regarded as a multi-billion-dollar affair. During the ISA Congress in Lyon in July 1999, trade sources indicated that in 1998 the United States retail market for silk products was estimated at some US$ 5 billion.
D. Sand-washed silk and its effects on trade
During the 1980s, some New York-based entrepreneurs started testing and developing a silk fabric that would be crease-resistant, pre-shrunk and even machine washable. Fabrics were washed in machines with sand, pebbles, tennis balls and even tennis shoes. The end result, a fabric that was very soft, comfortable and, most importantly, easy to maintain (i.e. to wash and iron), was a huge commercial success. Sand-washed silk fit into the 1990s' vogue for elegant, comfortable sports and leisure wear made of natural fibers. Not surprisingly, therefore, imports of sand-washed garments [mainly from China and Hong Kong (China)] into the West circled.
Traditionally, more than 90% of the world market for silk garments was geared to women's wear. Silk products for men were in the past largely limited to shirts, neckties, handkerchiefs, socks and underwear. The situation has changed significantly in the West, a direct result of the marketing of sand-washed silk. There was a wide range of sand-washed silk garments for men: trousers, jackets, padded winter jackets, bomber jackets, shirts, suits, shorts, T -shirts, etc. Some trade sources indicate that sand-washed silk may continue to have a future in men's clothing, but at higher quality and price levels.
The public perception of the right time to use silk garments has also shifted, at least in the traditional European markets. Silk used to be reserved mainly for evening wear, but sand-washed silk has made the use of silk garments possible at any time of the day. Hitherto sold only in high-street boutiques, silk garments and accessories are now available in department stores and from mail-order houses.
E. Other innovative silk products
During the 1990s, other silk items made in developing countries were successfully launched in several Western markets. An example is thermal underwear from China, which was introduced some years ago in Canada and the United States. This product is sold through specialist shops to skiers, mountain climbers and the like. Its main sales points are the special characteristics of silk, which is cool in summer, warm in winter and absorbs moisture without giving the sensation of wetness.
Knitted silk goods (T-shirts, camisoles, polo-neck sweaters and cardigans) have lately appeared in various European markets and in Japan. Knitted products of silk blended with cotton, linen, acrylic and viscose have been selling well in the middle price categories in Europe and especially in the United States. Luxury fibers such as cashmere, alpaca and camel hair are also blended with silk. There is a growing demand for knitted products both in silk and silk blends. The main suppliers for these products are Italy and China. This goes very well with the present fashion for casual dressing and it is believed that this is the trend for the future in several Western markets.
F. International suppliers
Raw silk and silk yarn: China is the dominant supplier of raw silk and silk yarn to the West. Many silk-producing developing countries are also heavily dependent on China for their basic supplies. The other main sources, but on a much smaller scale, are Brazil and Viet Nam.
Certain countries use up their own output of raw silk; some of these supplement domestic supplies with imports from China, Brazil and Viet Nam. India is a case in point: it is both the world's second largest producer of raw silk and the biggest importer of this material.
Finished silk goods: The finished silk goods marketed internationally in fairly recent times came mainly from Europe. Today, some developing and other countries/areas produce these goods for export on a large scale. China, India and Thailand are notable examples of comparatively new producers. Hong Kong (China), China and the Republic of Korea have been in the business of exporting large quantities of silk garments to Western markets for longer periods.
G. Imposition of quotas
The rapid increase of sand-washed silk exports from China to the European Union and the United States eventually, and perhaps inevitably, led to quantitative restrictions on both these markets. In the United States the restrictions were imposed after consultations between the two parties. In the European Union, they were imposed unilaterally by the European Commission in March 1994. Fortunately for China and Hong Kong (China), the main suppliers, demand for sand-washed silk garments in the West had already peaked. The quotas, therefore, had somewhat smaller impact than originally anticipated.
It is interesting to note that in these two markets Chinese exports were not considered a threat to the local silk-processing industries. This was particularly so in the United States, which has no domestic silk-processing industry to speak of. The threat arose from the fact that the cheap silk products were competing with products of other fibers, including cotton and even polyester. The quota restrictions in both markets are still in place; in the European Union both for Chinese silk fabrics and garments, in the United States for silk garments only.
It would seem that one of the essential challenges to the silk producers of today is to strike the right balance between the various segments of the market. The appearance of silk as a mass product does not have to mean its disappearance from the middle and higher echelons of the market.
In fact, the increasing pressure in Europe towards the use of environmentally nonthreatening products may have a greater impact on international trade. This pressure, particularly strong among consumer groups in Germany, will continue to lead to tough legislation on both production methods and end products.
8. Ecology and silk
Environmental and social issues are widely discussed in international textile and clothing circles. Western European countries, led by Germany, are becoming more and more demanding on such matters as production processes, child labor, social clauses, social labels and the use of dangerous chemicals and dyes. The trade itself has been slowly focusing on environmentally friendly products and production methods. For the time being there are no mandatory rules on eco-labeling, even though a host of eco-labeling schemes exist in many Western markets. In some countries, such as Sweden and Germany, several competing scenarios are available.
Silk has a lot to offer in this respect: it is user-friendly and environmentally sound. Essentially composed of proteins, it is close to the human skin. It can absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture, making it extremely comfortable to wear. From the point of view of the environment, silk has the advantage of being produced with few chemical fertilizers and practically no insecticides. These environmentally positive aspects have so far hardly featured in any sales campaigns. They should be vigorously used for the benefit of the international trade in silk products.
In March 1999 the European Union issued comprehensive environmental criteria for the use of European Union eco-labels for all textiles and clothing items. It remains to be seen how the manufacturers will react, since the previous European Union eco-label criteria for T-shirts and bed linen attracted only a handful of European manufacturers to apply for the label. It has to be kept in mind that the European Union eco-label is, like all the others, a voluntary label and using the label does not necessarily bring any clear benefit over similar competing (non-labelled) products.
In the Union, the life cycle of industrial products - 'from cradle to grave' – has become a matter of concern and their environmental effects before, during and after production are being subjected to scrutiny. One result is the bewildering array of competing eco-labelling systems created by different organizations with varying objectives in individual European countries.
Germany has perhaps been more active than any other European country on environmental issues. The health of consumers was taken into account by the Federal Ministry of Health's amendment of 15 July 1994 to the Consumer Goods Ordinance (which regulates all consumer commodities). The amendment bans the production, import and sale of any consumer goods containing certain azo-dye stuffs which, upon decomposition, produce any of the 20 amines suspected to be toxic. No garments or items which come into regular contact with the human body may be produced, imported and sold in Germany if they release harmful amines as a result of the use of these azo-dyes. The ban became effective in April 1996. The same rule is now also valid in the Netherlands for garments, bed linen and footwear.
The regulation has had an impact on silk producers and processors whether they operate for the German and Netherlands markets or not. While the free movement of goods within the Union would make it possible for one country to import the banned fabrics and produce garments for re-export to these markets, the German Ministry of Health, for example, can conduct random checks at the retail level to ensure compliance with the law.
Silk producers and exporters in developing countries should keep themselves informed through their business contacts in importing countries on the evolving regulations in their target markets.
9. Silk Producing Regions in Bangladesh
Silk plays an important role in the life style of the upper segment of Bangladesh society. It is a symbol of affluence, sophisticated taste, traditional femininity and cultural authenticity of elite people. Some people believe that the evocative expression (Golden Bangladesh) emerged from the golden color of the Bangladeshi silk yarn.
Sericulture and the silk industry are, by far and large, concentrated in the western and Northwestern part of Bangladesh. Rajshahi, and Bholahat of Chapai-Nawabganj are the major producing areas, even though Jashore, Kushtia, Natore and Pabna are also suitable for sericulture activities. The northwestern part of Bangladesh especially Bogra, Dinajpur, Rangpur, Thakurgaon in Chattogram hilly area, specially Rangamati are noted for mulberry cultivation.
The Ministry of Textile adopted the Bangladesh Textile policy in 1995, which was aimed at developing the labor intensive silk and sericulture sector to meet the international market demand. But this policy did not work effectively.
The new textile policy drafted plans to raise the total (including silk) domestic production to 14,036 million meters by the fiscal year 2019-20 that is double the existing local textile production. The annual combined demand for fabric from the domestic market and the export-oriented garment sector is around 11,400 million meters, of which 62 per cent, about 7,000 million meters, is met locally.
The National Silk Policy Steering Committee for developing the sericulture and silk industry of Bangladesh recommended the following strategies to the government:
Expansion of mulberry plantation through utilization of unused embankments along ponds, bridges and hillocks etc.
• Production of quality cocoon through the use of modern technology in mulberry plantation and silkworm rearing where applicable
• Identification of regions where mulberry plantation enjoy comparative advantage through application of intensive research
• To execute integrated program for mulberry cultivation and environment development in the eastern region and southern coastal saline areas
• Encourage innovation of new and traditional reeling technology to improve the silk yarn quality
• Provide necessary foreign assistance to BSRTI
• Facilitation and promotion of production of high quality silk fabrics
• Human resource development in the silk sector to enhance capacity
• Undertake development program in cooperation with development partners to raise productivity and to further improve mulberry cultivation
11. Silk Sector Enterprise in Bangladesh
BSB, BSRTI and BSF are the main suppliers of the silkworm eggs, mulberry, saplings and other basic inputs. They also provide need based training and other supportive assistance to the actors mainly rearers and reelers.
Rearers: Rearers are engaged in rearing the eggs and taking care of silkworm until it turns into a cocoon by maintaining nutrition and proper care of retaining the quality of cocoon by maintaining nutrition and proper care at the early stages. Some rearers have their own small patch of mulberry plantation. The rearers supply 20% of the cocoons to the reelers and rest to the rearer-cum-reelers. The value addition from their activities is 284% and the return on investment (RoI) is 26%. The number of rearers, unfortunately has decreased over the years, as many of them no longer consider the silk sector to be a profitable as it once had been.
The reelers buy the cocoons from the rearers and spin raw silk from these cocoons. The quantity and the quality of raw silk largely depend on the amount and the quality of cocoons available and the mechanism (usually charkas and katghais ) that are used. 100% of the yarn reeled by the reelers is sold to different weavers. They have a Role of 71% and a value addition of 45%. In 1995-96, raw silk production was as high as 58.5 tons in contrast to 14.5 tons produced in 1978-1979 (during the early stages BSB’s inception). On the other hand, after 1996-1997, there had been downward trend in 1997-1998, 1999-200 and 2001-2002 with a production of 22.5 tons, 12.9 tons and 12.4 tons respectively. This was mainly because of heavy floods, destruction of mulberry plantations, shortage of cocoons and outbreak of silkworm diseases in the country.
Rearer cum reeler:
This group performs the same tasks as individual rearers and reelers expect that one person or family engages in two different activities.
Silk weaving now involves using hand-loom and power loom, the former being the most used. Traditional silk weaving has attained remarkable success in producing some traditional sarees and wins the competition with the foreign goods, especially Indian sarees. Furthermore the power looms produce woven fabrics, which are better suited for dyed or printed sarees and dress materials. Knitting, another technology for fabric formation, had never in the country for silk fabrics formation, expect in case of an experiment carried out by BSB silk factory at Rajshahi with two imported circular knitting machines. As evident from the value-chain map, there are different type of weavers depending on the functions they carry out. Weavers with handlooms constitute about 20% and weavers with power looms are only 5% of the group of weavers. The weavers with handlooms and yarn dyeing facilities are by far the largest group with nearly 60% weavers with handlooms, dyeing and printing facilities are about 10%, while those with power looms, dyeing and printing facilities comprise of only 5%. Each group of these weavers has a Role of 61% and a value addition of 22%. The Figure also illustrates that first two groups of weavers supply all of their products (especially grey material) to the dyers and printers. The weavers with handlooms and yarn dyeing facilities supply 40%, 55% and 5% of their products to retailers, traders and exporters respectively. The fourth group supplies to the same group of actors but in varying quanity. i.e. 50% to the traders, 40% to the same group of actors but in varying quantity, i.e. 50% to the traders, 40% to the retailers and 10% to the exporters. The last group of weavers suppliers to all the other actors and markets shown in the value-chain map, i.e. 20%, 40%, 15% to the traders, retailers and exporters respectively. Moreover, a further 20% and 5% is sold directly to the end consumers and to export market respectively.
Dyers and Printers:
As the name suggests, dyers dye the yarn or the fabric while the printers print patterns on the fabric. Printing is a localized method of coloring, keeping some areas uncolored. Whereas dyeing covers almost all the areas targeted, with or without varying tones of shade. Silk coloring may involve operations such as de-gumming, weighting, bleaching and dyeing. Their Role and value addition amount to 45% and 50% respectively. They supply about 30% to the traders and the rest to the retailers.
Traders/ Wholesalers/ Dealers:
They buy grey materials of printed fabrics and clothes to sell either to retailers or exporters and sometimes directly to the end user. They supply 85% of their products to the retailers, 10% to the exporters and exporters and 5% to the end consumers. Their Role is 39% and the value addition is only 7%.
The retailers have large showrooms where they display a variety of products for the customers and sell 95% of the products to them. Few of the retailers are engaged in exporting some of their products directly (about 3%) and also through exporters (2%). Retailers have a Role of 45% and 47% is their value addition.
These are the enterprises that promote Bangladeshi silk products in the international market and most often they have their own retail outlets and their own contract weavers and rearers. Needles to say, they have a high RoI (66%) among other actors and an adequate value addition (50%).
12. An overview of the manpower employed in the silk sector is shown
13. Demand and Trend Analysis
Identification of the demand and supply gap is crucial for private sector enterprise and public institutions involved in sericulture for making appropriate business decisions. From the following table, we can see that the consumption of local silk fabrics (figures in thousand meters) initially declined and then slowly increased over the last few years. In 2006-07, the total domestic consumption of silk fabrics is expected to be more than 3,400,000 meters. This usage of local silk fabrics, however, is increasing at a faster rate than local silk production, which induces importers to import more foreign silk fabrics. Only a handful of exporters concentrate on the domestic market. As a result, Bangladesh might lose its export nature of the fabrics is not improved.
14. Key Success Factors (KSF) of the Silk Market (National and International)
Silk Manufacturing and Export Association Bangladesh has prepared a list of Key Success Factor (KSF) for the silk sector. The silk sector promoters/enterprises must be aware of these KSFs, as these are the prerequisites for market development and expansion. The list of silk sector’s Key Success Factors (KSF) is shown below.
• Adoption of new technology and continuous improvement in silk processing and production
• Availability of good quality machines (Katghais) than the Indian Machines
• Introduction of low cost designs and products for mid-income groups
• Promoting silk as a symbol of aristocracy and grandeur for high-end customers
• A strong distribution channel and a relatively low distribution cost
• Faster flow of market information and ability to respond quickly to market conditions
• Selective and convenient location of the retail outlets and more shelf space for silk
• Easy access to financial institutions for short and long term credits
• Formulation of favorable policy and effective implementation by government agencies
• Innovations and continuous improvements in product design and increased use of updated and cost effective technology
• Ability to develop good quality pattern and/or product samples
• Collective global promotion of silk as a rare, exclusive and natural fabric
• Ability to attract superior talent in both craftsmanship and adoption of superior technology
• Excellent market information systems and ability to respond quickly to the changing global market conditions.
• Developing a network of International buyers and sellers
• Strong policies to protect the national silk market and industry
• Availability of market assessment tools for identifying newer and niche markets for Bangladeshi silk products
• Adequate electronic facilities to promote silk products through the Internet (e-commerce)
Silk Manufacturing and Export Association Bangladesh believes that the list of KSFs of the silk sector in Bangladesh for both local and international market would be appropriate tools to identify the areas, which need attention and improvement. Bangladesh has a cost advantage over many European countries and in near future, it may be able to complete with fast developing economies like China, Thailand and India. Besides this, the competition faced within this industry must be conducive to innovation and creativity in silk products. Since goodwill and reliability are prerequisites for survival in this industry, product quality, design and development become even more important for creating and upholding strong brand loyalty and a higher profit margin
15. SWOT analysis of Silk Sector of Bangladesh According to Silk Manufacturing and Export Association Bangladesh
16. Extension of Bangladesh Sericulture Development Board and Research Network
Moynamoti and Jhinaidah sericulture seed centre and Ratnai small sericulture garden has been given to Bangladesh Silk Foundation according to the decision of the Government.
17. Recent Initiative of Bangladesh Sericulture Board (BBS):
Bangladesh Sericulture Board (BSB) has planned to create 20 more sericulture villages for promotion of the sector and its industry through entrepreneurship development at different levels of production. BSB has adopted a five-year project titled "Integrated Plan for Extension and Development of Sericulture in Bangladesh" that will be implemented throughout the country by spending Taka 30.80 crore.
The project has provision of establishing 20 sericulture villages at the potential areas as a model to improve capacity of small and marginal farmers to establish high yielding mulberry garden and produce superior quality of silk cocoon. The villages will function as a good center for economic activity and people of the adjacent areas will gradually be inspired and involved in income generation process. Silk industry, by its nature, is a family based labor- intensive economic activity that provides employment for the rural people.
BSB thinks that, this project will create huge employment especially in the area of cocoon growers and the rest will be engaged in silk reeling, spinning, weaving, dyeing, printing, finishing and trading activities. The multidisciplinary activities provide unique job opportunities to the marginal farmers, landless poor, rural artisans and also the urban silk fabric manufacturing industries and contribute a lot to poverty reduction, he added. (Financial Express, Thursday, 23 May 2013)
18. Probable Potentiality of Silk Sector of Bangladesh:
Bangladesh is the neighboring country of India. From the above details discussion, we can see that the country has traditional and long history of silk production, consumption and trade. India is the largest importer of raw-silk and in the year of 2010, India has imported 12462 Metric ton raw-silk mostly from China. Expected future import demand of raw-silk of China is 9720 Metric ton in 2019-20. We have a large opportunity for the production of raw-silk in Rajshahi, Chapainawabgonj, Jashore, Kushtia, Natore, Pabna, Thakurgaon, and Rangamati.
Silk Demand and Supply of India: Future Expectation
Source: Final Report, National Fiber Policy, Sub-group on Silk, India,
For the development of the silk industry necessary all types of supporting facility like Research Institute, silk board, silk foundation is existing. If India invest Bangladesh for producing Raw-silk for the fulfilment of their import demand and export only 1% of their import demand, total export earning of Bangladesh will be 3600 million US dollar, which is the 15% of our total export earnings of 2012-13 ( In 2012-13 Bangladesh’s export earning was 23757.6 million US dollar). Price of cocoon is 3.14 US dollar (Rs. 194) per-kg and price of raw-silk is 27.39US dollar (Rs. 1691) in India in the year of 2010. (Source: FTSI, DGCI&S, Kolkata). That is, there is a huge hidden opportunity of Foreign Direct Investment for producing raw-silk in Bangladesh especially in Rajshahi.
Dr. Sonjoy Chakraborty is the Deputy Secretary of the Government of Bangladesh and working in the Regional Public Administration Training Centre (RPATC). He worked as Assistant Commissioner/ Sr. Assistant Commissioner and Magistrate First Class, Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Additional District Magistrate and ADC (Education) in different areas of the country. Then he was posted as Director (Research and Development) in BIDA under Prime Minister’s Office. Dr. Chakraborty’s 20 research papers have been published in various reputed journals on Economics, Business, Music and Language. He was awarded as a Best Researcher in 2016 in the International Conference on Business and Economics at Dhaka University.