TIRUCHY: Farmers engaged in sericulture are facing the heat of the lockdown as prices of silkworm cocoons and raw silk thread have slumped. Transportation of raw materials is also an issue. Around 300 farmers are growing mulberry plants and also have sheds to produce cocoons on 600 acres in Tiruchy district.
Sources said Tamil Nadu's yearly demand for silk is 3,000 metric tonnes. Around 2,000 metric tonnes is sourced from the State itself and the remaining imported from China.
Since the implementation of the lockdown last month, farmers and owners of reeling units have hardly seen any business. "Though we are also farmers growing mulberry plants by providing fertilisers and water like other farmers, cocoons are not considered agricultural products. There are restrictions on transportation and there is a price slump at every stage," farmers said.
These farmers rear silkworms in their sheds by providing them with mulberry leaves for about 22 days. After cocoons are formed, they sell them to the reeling units that produce raw silk. The reeling units sell the raw silk to twisting units that ready the silk for sale. Then, it goes to weavers. Workers involved at every stage have been hit by the ongoing lockdown.
As farmers already started rearing a batch of silkworms that produced cocoons as the lockdown was underway, the Department of Sericulture stepped in to help them sell the cocoons to the reeling units.
But the steep drop in prices worried farmers. Senthil Kumar, a farmer from Alampatti Melur, said, "Before the lockdown, cocoons sold for Rs 400 per kg. Now, it is sold for just Rs. 200 to 250 per kg." V Senthil Kumar, who runs a reeling unit at Kaveri Nagar on the Tiruchy-Pudukkottai road, said, "I am not operating my unit due to restrictions. About 20 labourers work in my unit. If I have to run the unit, I need all of them to be present, so boilers can be fuelled and reeling could be done. I cannot run the unit with minimal workforce as it is not profitable."
He also lamented the decrease in the price of raw silk. "Earlier, I used to sell 1 kg of raw silk for Rs 3,300 to twisters. Now, they are willing to pay Rs.
1,800 only. If I reel the silk and sell it at this rate, I may run into heavy losses." Kumar demanded the government provide financial assistance like loans and stipends after the lockdown to help out reeling units.
Sources in the department said the price slump was because weaving units were not operating and textile shops were closed. Those engaged in sericulture are complaining many officials are unaware of their business and transportation of materials is often hindered by police at check posts.