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December 4, 2001
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India aims to export $1-billion silk products

Fakir Chand in Bangalore

Undeterred by the slump in exports during the current fiscal year due to global slowdown and post-September 11th events, the Union textile ministry has set up an ambitious target of doubling India's silk exports by targeting new markets with niche products.

"We are aiming to cross a figure of $1-billion in silk exports in the next two years from $530 million achieved last year. Our strategy is take the finest Indian silk products into those markets which remain untapped even by our traditional rivals like China in view of our competitive advantages in fabrication and finished goods," Union Minister for Textiles Kashiram Rana told rediff.com in Bangalore on Monday.

Though India is the world's second largest producer of silk with 16,000 tonnes per annum, it is way behind China, whose production is over 4 times that of India. While China contributes 75 per cent of global silk output, the share of India is just around 18 per cent. China also dominates the international silk market, which had a turnover of $6.5 billion in 2000.

As in the case of other textiles, domestic consumption of silk continues to be so huge that manufacturers are forced to import about 5,000 tonnes of raw silk, mainly from continental China, considered the 'big brother' in the international silk industry. Most of the imported silk is used by export oriented units for markets in the US and Europe.

Rana said the Indian Silk Export Promotion Council, set up by the ministry, would be tapping non-traditional markets in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Australia with newer products and newer designs in fabrics, garments, carpets and made-ups as there was a huge potential for such goods from the furnishing sector in these regions.

"India will be showcasing its exotic silk products at the ensuing international silk fair 'Heimtexil' being held in Germany (Frankfurt) in January second week. The Council will also participate in a similar fair to be held in Australia (Melbourne) during May 2002," Rana stated.

While China continues to dominate the world silk market with strong presence in traditional markets like Europe and the US, India is positioning itself in niche products in those regions where China is yet to make a foray in a big way.

"Silk made-ups, garments, and carpets are our specialty. We may not match China in fabrics. But unlike in India, where most of the silk is used for making saris, there is a great demand in the rest of the world for silk dresses, curtains, bed spreads, pillow covers, and carpets," Council executive director P M Govande told rediff.com on the sidelines of the four-day 23rd Congress of the International Silk Association, being held for the first time in India, and organized by the Central Silk Board.

In order to step up exports and minimize imports of raw silk from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, Rana said the ministry had laid down a five-point strategy to boost production of raw silk to 26,000 tonnes during the 10th five-year plan, beginning from the next fiscal (2002-03), including 6,700 tonnes of bivoltine silk.

"Taking into account the huge market opportunities unfolding in a free-trade regime, the Central Silk Board and the various state governments have drawn up sericulture development plans with emphasis on increasing bivoltine variety," Rana affirmed, adding that an investment of Rs 6.5 billion would provided from the central sector funding, and another Rs 23 billion would come from state sector funding, besides Rs 4 billion from institutional credit.

According to Central Silk Board chairman K S Eshwarappa, several regions suitable for bivoltine cocoon cultivation have been identified across the tropical country and special programs have been formulated for upgrading the farmer-level infrastructure like independent silkworm rearing houses, modern rearing and cocoon equipment, and drip irrigation kits.
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