Global silk industry


Silk fabric was first developed in ancient China and later spread around the world via the 'Silk Road' and became popular among super-rich or high society. Nowadays silk is an affordable luxury for the middle class in Europe and the USA, and continues to hold its own in Asia as traditional ceremonial wear.


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. Sericulture provides income for 700,000 households in India, and 20,000 weaving families in Thailand (FAO, 2009). China is the worlds single biggest producer and chief supplier of silk to the world markets. India is the worlds second largest producer. Ten per cent of world silk is produced altogether by Brazil, North Korea, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. 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.


Supply and demand of raw silk


The five largest fresh cocoon producing countries are (in brackets average production of last 4 years in tonnes of per year is reported): China (500,000), India (126,000), Uzbekistan (20,200), Brazil (14,000) and Vietnam (13,000).


Countries with more than 300 tonnes of fresh cocoons per year are: Thailand, North and South Korea, Japan, Iran, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Indonesia. Altogether approximately 35 to 40 counties are involved in sericulture. World production of raw silk is an average of 80,000 tonnes per year, about 70% of which is produced in China.


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Originally published in New Cloth Market, December 2011