To capitalize on its centuries-old association with silk and sericulture, the Jammu and Kashmir administration is planning to promote Kashmir silk under the Union Territory’s overall brand.
The plan is part of J&K industries’ initiative to promote a few selected products that are part of the cultural legacy.
“Many people don’t know that Kashmir is famous for silk as well. That is why, we are striving to brand silk under the overall brand of Jammu and Kashmir,” said Sajid Nazir, deputy general manager, J&K industries.
“Kashmir has been historically into silk production and trade. Since 1890s, silk was produced in an organised manner and exported to the UK. In the second world war, silk fabric for parachutes was exported from Kashmir,” he said, adding, “Given the history and legacy of Kashmir silk, there is imminent spoken potential for this industry to develop.”
Kashmir’s first silk reeling factory was started at Solina in Srinagar in 1897 under the patronage of British. In 1937, a silk-weaving factory was established at Rajbagh. By 1961-62, the production of silk in the state went to around 98,000 kg.
The reeling at Solina filatures and weaving at Rajbagh factory was restarted after the floods when new machines were procured owing to a World Bank-funded Jhelum Tawi Flood Recovery Project (JTFRP).
“The World Bank is primarily supporting this initiative to help the cocoon rearers. As per the sericulture department, 30,000 families in J&K are producing cocoons,” said Nazir, who coordinates the industries-commerce component of the World Bank project.
Not long ago, Jammu and Kashmir had been producing one of the finest silk qualities in the world with high-end varieties like ‘lotus’, ‘iris’, ‘tulip’, and ‘neel’.
Nazir said that the approximate annual production of cocoon in J&K is 900 metric tons (MT) or 9 lakh kgs.
“Maximum of these cocoons go to West Bengal and Karnataka and a very small portion of cocoons are turned into silk or fabric in Srinagar’s reeling and weaving factories,” said Nazir.
He said that now silk reeling and weaving units have also been established in Jammu.
Nazir said that last year, cocoons worth ₹5.5 crore were procured from the farmers which produced 23, 000 kg of yarn or 4 lakh metres of silk fabric.
This year, we intend to procure double the quantity worth ₹11 crore, which will be around 130-150 metric tonnes,” he said. “Promoting Kashmir silk as a brand is important for helping the local industry and safeguarding of the livelihood of the farmers, ” Nazir added.
“Young people only know that Kashmir is known for handicrafts or horticulture. Silk is also an important part of Kashmir. To encourage this, we want the brand promotion of silk as well,” he said.