Silk Industry (in India and World)

Silk Industry (in India and World)

This article deals with the  Silk Industry (in India and World).’ This is part of our series on ‘Geography’, which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.

Location Factors of the Silk Industry

  • Cheap Labour: Historically and even in contemporary times, the silk industry heavily relies on cheap skilled labour, particularly women, due to their dexterity and precision required in the delicate process of silk production. Cheaper labour reduces production costs significantly, making it economically viable for manufacturers.
  • Proximity to Mulberry Farms: Silk-producing units are often located near mulberry farms to reduce transportation costs and ensure a constant supply of leaves for the silkworms.
  • Climatic Conditions: Silkworms require a specific temperature range for their growth and cocoon formation. Regions with moderate temperatures and high humidity are conducive to sericulture. Extreme cold or hot climates are unsuitable.
  • Well-Drained Soil: Silkworms are susceptible to diseases in waterlogged soil. 
  • Water Availability: The silk industry requires a significant amount of water, both for mulberry cultivation and for the rearing of silkworms.  
  • Government Support: Government policies, subsidies, and incentives play a vital role in the growth of the silk industry.  
  • Transportation and Connectivity: Good transportation infrastructure, including roads, railways, and ports, facilitates the movement of raw silk and finished products. Well-connected regions have a competitive advantage.

Side Topic: Silk Formation Process

Silk Industry (in India and World)

India and Silk Industry

India is home to various types of silk, including Mulberry, Tasar, Oak Tasar, Eri, and Muga. Among these varieties, Mulberry silk dominates, constituting 74% of the total silk production.

Major Producers include

Mulberry Silk Mainly in Southern states
1. Karnataka
2. Tamil Nadu
3. Andhra Pradesh
Non-Mulberry Silk 1. Jharkhand
2. Chhattisgarh
3. Odisha
4. North East

Importance of Silk Industry in India?

  • Women-Friendly Occupation: The Silk Industry in India is a women-friendly occupation, with women consisting of more than 60% of the total workforce.  
  • Ideal for upliftment of Weaker Sections in Rural Areas: This industry is an ideal program for weaker sections in rural areas due to its low capital intensity and short gestation period.
  • Eco-friendly activity: As a perennial crop with good foliage and root spread, Mulberry contributes to soil conservation. Waste from silkworm rearing can be recycled as inputs to the garden.
  • Fulfil equity concerns: As end-product users are mostly from the higher economic groups, the money flows from high-end groups to low-end groups. 
  • Export Potential: India’s Silk Industry has significant export potential, allowing the country to earn foreign currency.  

Challenges faced by Indian Silk Industry

  1. Decreased Export Revenue: The Indian Silk Industry has been grappling with a decline in export earnings, primarily caused by the global recession and diminished demand for silk products in Western nations.
  2. Intense Price Competition: Intensified price competition due to the incorporation of low-cost Chinese silk or artificial/synthetic silk yarns has forced natural silk traders to resort to distress sales to remain competitive.
  3. Reduction in Cultivated Area: The cultivation of mulberry silk has suffered due to a consistent reduction in the area of mulberry cultivation.  

India is a leading producer. WHY?

  • Raw Material: India’s leading silk production is facilitated by the cultivation of mulberry plants. These plants can be grown on any soil type, including hill slopes and have a high tolerance for drought conditions.
  • Labour: Sericulture does not demand hard physical labour. Silkworms, the critical players in silk production, can be reared by individuals, especially women and older people, making them an ideal source of supplementary income for households.
  • Low Capital Requirement: Sericulture requires minimal capital investment. This affordability enables tribals and impoverished sections to engage in silk production, boosting their economic prospects.  
  • High Demand: In India, the demand for silk consistently exceeds the domestic supply. This demand-supply gap necessitates the import of silk to meet the market requirements.

Karnataka has a well-developed Silk industry. WHY?

Karnataka’s thriving silk industry has prospered due to several factors. 

Raw Material:

  • Mulberry thrives in Karnataka’s climate, making it readily available for sericulture.
  • Karnataka utilizes the Bombax variety of silkworms, which can be reared throughout the year with a high yield.

Water Supply:

  • Karnataka benefits from an abundant supply of soft water, which is crucial for silk production.  

Labour Force:

  • Women play a significant role in rearing silk worms, contributing to the labor force involved in silk production.

Capital Investment:

  • During World War II, capitalists in Mysore accumulated substantial wealth, providing a financial boost to the silk industry.
  • Mysore’s silk was in high demand for making parachutes, further driving economic growth in the region.

Technological Advancements:

  • Karnataka benefits from the presence of the Central Silk Board located in Bangalore.

Location of Silk Industry in the World

  • China dominates global silk production, contributing approximately 80% of the total output. 
  • India is another substantial producer, accounting for around 18% of the global silk production. 
  • Countries like Japan, Brazil, Thailand, and Vietnam individually produce 0.5% or even less of the world’s silk supply.
Major Silk Producers of the world

Why is China a leading producer?

China holds a prominent position as the leading silk producer due to several factors.

  • Climate: China’s temperate and tropical climate provides an ideal environment for cultivating silk.
  • Technology: Scientists have developed hybrid silk varieties with higher yields.  
  • Labour: China has abundant & skilled labour.  
  • Government Policy: Sericulture in China is organized through cooperatives, ensuring efficient production and distribution. 

Japan was earlier a major producer but now produces less than 0.5%. 

Japan was once a significant producer, but currently, its silk production has declined drastically, accounting for less than 0.5% of the total output.


  • The industrial sector offers higher wages, leading to a scarcity of labour for sericulture.


  • Other sectors provide better returns on investment compared to silk production.

Lost Market:

  • Traditional Japanese attire like kimonos are no longer widely worn by Japanese women, resulting in a diminished market for silk products. Kimonos are predominantly reserved for ceremonial occasions in contemporary Japan.


  • An example is Koromo town, where the silk industry was in decline, and both land and labour were available at a low cost. Toyota seized this opportunity, purchased land in the area, and transformed it into an automobile manufacturing facility. 

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