India currently accounts for 22% of the world's silk production…
- India’s silk exports were expected to grow with orders up 8.4% year-on-year in the first five months of fiscal 2003 thanks to strong demand from the US and Canada;
- according to statistics, silk exports in the April to August period climbed to US$183.3 million from $169.6m in the prior year period;
- the sericulture sector in the country is on a revival after going through a tough phase of low production due to droughts and fall in prices on account of dumping of cheap silk from China. In terms of production, as per the provisional figures provided by the Central Silk Board (CSB) for the six-month period of April-September 2004-05, raw silk production has gone up around 24% at 7,931 ton compared to 6,387 ton during April-September 2003-04. The total production in the 2003-04 period was 13,970 ton; (1)
- domestic demand for silk is steadily rising with the growth of the middle class and overseas demand is growing continuously (above 10% per year). Especially with the decline in production by Japan and South Korea due to rising labor costs, India has an opportunity to increase exports in competition with China, whose production is four times India's;
- silk export earnings during April-September 2004-05 including natural silk yarn, fabrics, madeup, ready made garments, and silk carpets have registered a growth of 18% compared to April-September 2003-04 period; (1)
- the sericulture industry is land-based as silk worm rearing involves over 700,000 farm families in 59,000 villages. and is concentrated in the three Southern states of Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh. (The states of Assam and West Bengal are also involved in the industry to a certain extent);
- as one of the most labour-intensive sectors of the Indian economy, it provides full and part-time employment to some 6 million people, directly involved in cultivating mulberry on . 25 million hectares. In fact, this sector has been identified as a sector of the Indian economy with strong potential for job creation;
- this ‘domestic’ characterisation of silk production in India has a lot of implications with respect to the need to fight sweatshops and over-exploitation of workers;
- according to the Multinational Monitor, in the Karnataka silk industry, there may be as many as 100,000 bonded children involved in every stage of silk production. The Indian silk industry relies on bonded child labour - children forced to work in conditions of servitude in order to pay off debt of their economically strapped parent or parents - at all stages of production; (2)
- it is not unusual for children to begin working in the silk industry when they are 5 years old. These children earn very low wages, typically 10 rupees a day or less, and suffer occupational hazards and the threat of employer abuse;
- children are employed in almost all processes of the sericulture industry making it almost a child–based economy. They work in mulberry cultivation, cocoon rearing, reeling, winding, doubling, twisting, and re-reeling, all of which adversely affect the health of the child.
- standing for 12-16 hours a day with hardly any break, concentrating on reeling the fine threads, leads to other health disorders. Vapours from the boiling cocoons and the diesel fumes from the machines also contribute to the poor condition in the units. These conditions have been found responsible for retardation of the child’s normal growth and development.
(1) Courtesy: www.financialexpress.com, February 22, 2005.
(2) Lee Tucker and Arvind Ganesan, “The Small Hands of Slavery: India’s Bonded Child Laborers and the World Bank,” Multinational Monitor, January/February 1997 - www.thirdworldtraveler.com/IMF_WB/SmallHands_MNM.html (as of March 14, 2000).