Punjab’s silk growers to get smoother access to funds

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VIAAsif Mehmood
SOURCEThe Express Tribune
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LAHORE: The practice of raising silkworms has been around for several thousand years, and this primitive method of silk production has received a brand new lifeline in Punjab.  The sericulture unit at the forest department, through interest-free financial assistance, will now help farmers increase production.

According to details, the Akhuwat Foundation, an organization that aims to alleviate poverty, along with a firm from China, is all set to dish out interest-free loans to 500 families in Changa Manga.

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The financial support will help farmers procure seeds and raise silkworms.  Through the collaborative program, Pakistan has already managed to exceed its production of raw silk by 22,000 kilograms.

“We have successfully managed to increase the silk production from 4,000kg to 22,000kg,” said Assistant Director Sericulture Director Punjab Muhammad Farooq Bhatti.  “If we continue to produce at this rate, Pakistan will be on the list of top silk producing countries,” Bhatti added.

Sericulture, the practice of raising silkworms, has been around for several thousand years. It began in China more than three millennia ago.  It remains a profitable venture, even for small-scale farmers who raise the larvae and spin the threads as a kind of cottage industry.

In Changa Manga, Bhatti said, more than 100 families started silk farming in 2016. Now, they have more than 800 silkworms.

“In collaboration with the Akhuwat foundation, we will provide a livelihood to many families,” Bhatti claimed.

In December this year, the foundation will dish out funds.  In the first phase of the program, according to the sericulture department, 200 families will receive Rs. 20,000-25,000.  Similarly, 300 families will receive up to Rs. 4,000 each to procure seeds, which cost Rs. 2,000 per bag when imported from China.

According to information provided by the sericulture department, each year, Pakistan spends Rs. 65 billion on the import of silk.  In the next few years, the department hopes, the country will spend less on imports.

“Our target is to make Pakistan self-sufficient in the production of silk, and in the long run, this means the country will spend less on imports,” said Bhatti.

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With innovation in the seeding process, it is now possible to raise silkworms all-round the year. Earlier, farmers had to keep worms between February and April. A few years ago, the farming industry received a blow due to the deforestation of mulberry trees in Changa Manga.  During the 1990s, the industry struggled for its survival after the massive deforestation drive.

Mulberry leaves play an important role during the farming process.  Each silk moth lays about 500 eggs in its brief adult life.  After hatching, the larvae feed on mulberry leaves.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2019.

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