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Why Nigeria should turn to silk farming

Expert asks FG to map out growing areas Nigeria can now produce silkworm eggs for farmers – FG Silk farming or sericulture, which is the…

  • Expert asks FG to map out growing areas
  • Nigeria can now produce silkworm eggs for farmers – FG

Silk farming or sericulture, which is the cultivation of silkworm to produce silk, has since remained an excellent agro-based cottage industry for rural reconstruction and development.

Mr. Ojo Fashakin, an agriculturist, who specilalises in sericulture, noted that silk is an animal protein fibre produced by certain insects to build cocoons and webs.

He explained that the vast majority of the world’s production of silk was from the silk worm, scientifically known as Bombyx mori, which originated from China and that the species of the insect was known to feed exclusively on a plant known as mulberry.

According to him, silk is very thin but strong, beautiful and durable and it is the only natural continuous filament used in the manufacture of textile because of its uniqueness.

Although much has been said about the state of the country’s cotton-based textile production, not much has been said about silk-based textile production.

Experts in the cotton sector believe that the current widespread interest in silk textile is premised on its advantages over cotton or polyester.

Mr. Ojo Fashakin said besides the luxurious softness and beauty of silk textile, “It is the most hypoallergenic of all fabrics.”

He said, “It is a climate-friendly fabric, highly absorbent in nature and with the capacity to dry up quickly. It can absorb up to 30 per cent of its weight in moisture without feeling damp. Despite its delicate appearance, silk garments resist soil and odours well.”

How local farmers will benefit

Presently, silk farming or sericulture is practiced in 58 countries with China as the foremost mulberry silk producing country in the world followed by India.

Golden Harvest reports that due to its capacity to complement poverty alleviation and job creation programmes, many countries in Asia and Africa are showing interests in sericulture development.

In countries such as France, Italy, Spain and South Korea, the demand for raw silk and silk products continues to increase due to its excellent features when compared to synthetic fibre.

Dr. Abimbola Ogunwusi of the Raw Materials Research Development Council (RMRDC) told our agric editor on phone that the main areas of employment generation in the silk production value chain were mulberry cultivation, silkworm rearing, production and sale of silkworm eggs. Others, he said, included silk reeling, threading and weaving, and fabrication of machines for small scale filature or big time millers.

Dr. Ogunwusi further said in addition to providing direct employment, every part of the mulberry plant – from the root to the leaves – was medicinal, which drug, pharmaceutical companies and herbal medicine practitioners had taken advantage of to create tens of thousands of more jobs in the silk production industry.

This, he said, indicated that silk business was a good for poverty alleviation in a developing country.

Why Nigeria should pay attention to sericulture

Sericulturists have noted that in addition to creating gainful employment for their rural populations, China and India, the first and second most populous countries in the world respectively, which are also the two largest silk producers, derived about $2bn and $450m of revenue annually respectively from sericulture.

Global annual silk production was estimated at 202,000 metric tonnes as at 2018 and the major producing countries are China (172,180MT) and India (28,654MT) respectively.

The employment opportunities provided by sericulture cannot be overemphasised. For instance in China at a time, sericulture employed 20 million households who cultivated two million hectares of mulberry in 22 out of 25 provinces of the country, while there were also 1,000 silk factories with 2.4 million reeling machines employing over a million workers.

In view of this, Dr. Ojo Ajisafe, an expert in sericulture, advised Nigeria to quickly tap the opportunity by first identifying areas where silk farming could be promoted in the country and that thereafter farmers should be encouraged and empowered to immediately go into production.

According to him, among the investment opportunities in the value chain of sericulture are mulberry cultivation (moriculture) which plays a significant role in determining the production cost of silkworm; cocoon and ultimately raw silk. It is estimated that about 60 per cent of the cost of producing silkworm cocoon goes to mulberry cultivation.

The second most important opportunity, he said, was silkworm egg production and rearing and that production of quality silkworm eggs was a vital step in successful sericulture business.

He said others were cocoon production, silk weaving or knitting, lawyers’ wig and silk garment production.

Nigeria’s effort to grow mulberry

According to documents obtained from the RMRDC, mulberry sericulture was re-introduced to Nigeria by the old Ondo State Government in collaboration with the council. This eventually led to a joint venture agreement on sericulture development project by both sides with the aim to meet the national demand for it in various industries and consequently domesticate the technologies of silk egg rearing, cocoon production, mulberry cultivation and silk processing. This is in addition to popularising mulberry sericulture so as to stimulate industrial transformation of the country.

In consonance with the arrangement, the Ekiti State Government provided the infrastructure and an egg production expert from India.  The government also established five hectares of mulberry plantation in addition to training over 50 farmers on silk worm rearing activities.

Furthermore, the government imported machines, including deflossing, cocoon boiling, re-reeling, twisting, doubling power, warping and winding machines and hand looms.

The Director General (DG) of RMRDC, Prof. Ibrahim D. Hussaini, said the council provided grainage for egg production, project vehicles, generating sets and boreholes and that it conducted capacity building for over 200 farmers on all the aspects of mulberry sericulture technology.

The DG said through this project, the council in collaboration with the Ekiti State Government, had been able to break the problems of dormancy in mulberry seed propagation and promote plantation establishment of the plant.

Today, the technology for the production of silkworm eggs is locally available. This was the major constraint that militated against the success of the project at initiation.

In addition, he said, the government of adjacent states: Ondo, Edo and Kwara, have indicated interest in sericulture enterprises development.


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