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State muga farming facing uncertain future

By Ajit Patowary

GUWAHATI, May 1 � Small tea gardens in some of the Upper Assam districts and rubber plantations in some of the Lower Assam districts have now added to the threats faced by the State�s tradition of farming the golden silk, muga. Some other factors have already made the sector unviable for many of the State�s farmers.

It is also feared that the recent ethnic clashes between the Rabhas and the Garos living in the muga growing areas of Assam and Meghalaya may have some adverse impact on the sector this year.

Disclosing this, sources in the State�s Sericulture Department said that the rapid expansion of the small tea gardens have been shrinking the muga growing areas, besides reducing the number of the farmers of this traditional silk variety in the Upper Assam districts of Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sivasagar, Jorhat and Golaghat.

Similarly, the muga growing tradition in the Lower Assam districts of Goalpara and Kamrup has been facing the same threat from the growing number of rubber plantations.

To overcome such problems and threats, the risk factors of muga should be tried to be reduced by developing an effective process for full domestication or indoor practice of this invaluable silk at the earliest. This could be done through farmer-friendly applied research activities aimed at vertical growth of the muga sector, said the sources.

It is important to note that by this time, the Central Silk Board has undertaken initiatives to conduct summer muga crop rearing at high altitude areas of Sikkim, Uttaranchal, Andhra Pradesh and Cooch Behar, said the sources in the State�s Sericulture Department.

Apart from the problems it is facing in producing healthy seed crops from time to time, the sector is facing some nagging problems like low rates of silk and cocoon recovery. In muga, silk recovery is between 40 per cent and 45 per cent against the around 70 per cent in mulberry and between 75 per cent and 80 per cent in eri.

The cocoon recovery rate in muga is also low � that is around 40 per cent from 100 to 150 eggs produced from a disease-free laying (DFL) � compared to mulberry (almost 70 per cent of the around 400 eggs) and eri (around 70 per cent of the around 350 eggs). These two problems also need to be addressed through applied research works, said the sources.

The silk sector of the State generated in 2009-10 fiscal an income of around Rs 132 crore. At the end of the Tenth Five Year Plan, in 2006-07, it could generate an income in the range of Rs 75 crore and Rs 80 crore.

According to a preliminary estimate, the State could produce around 101 metric tonnes (MTs) of raw muga silk in the 2010-11 fiscal, sources said.

In the State, according to the figures of the 2009-10 fiscal, around 34,296 families are engaged in muga farming, while 1,82, 984 families are engaged in eri farming and 31, 411 families are engaged in mulberry farming, said the sources.

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State muga farming facing uncertain future

GUWAHATI, May 1 � Small tea gardens in some of the Upper Assam districts and rubber plantations in some of the Lower Assam districts have now added to the threats faced by the State�s tradition of farming the golden silk, muga. Some other factors have already made the sector unviable for many of the State�s farmers.

It is also feared that the recent ethnic clashes between the Rabhas and the Garos living in the muga growing areas of Assam and Meghalaya may have some adverse impact on the sector this year.

Disclosing this, sources in the State�s Sericulture Department said that the rapid expansion of the small tea gardens have been shrinking the muga growing areas, besides reducing the number of the farmers of this traditional silk variety in the Upper Assam districts of Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sivasagar, Jorhat and Golaghat.

Similarly, the muga growing tradition in the Lower Assam districts of Goalpara and Kamrup has been facing the same threat from the growing number of rubber plantations.

To overcome such problems and threats, the risk factors of muga should be tried to be reduced by developing an effective process for full domestication or indoor practice of this invaluable silk at the earliest. This could be done through farmer-friendly applied research activities aimed at vertical growth of the muga sector, said the sources.

It is important to note that by this time, the Central Silk Board has undertaken initiatives to conduct summer muga crop rearing at high altitude areas of Sikkim, Uttaranchal, Andhra Pradesh and Cooch Behar, said the sources in the State�s Sericulture Department.

Apart from the problems it is facing in producing healthy seed crops from time to time, the sector is facing some nagging problems like low rates of silk and cocoon recovery. In muga, silk recovery is between 40 per cent and 45 per cent against the around 70 per cent in mulberry and between 75 per cent and 80 per cent in eri.

The cocoon recovery rate in muga is also low � that is around 40 per cent from 100 to 150 eggs produced from a disease-free laying (DFL) � compared to mulberry (almost 70 per cent of the around 400 eggs) and eri (around 70 per cent of the around 350 eggs). These two problems also need to be addressed through applied research works, said the sources.

The silk sector of the State generated in 2009-10 fiscal an income of around Rs 132 crore. At the end of the Tenth Five Year Plan, in 2006-07, it could generate an income in the range of Rs 75 crore and Rs 80 crore.

According to a preliminary estimate, the State could produce around 101 metric tonnes (MTs) of raw muga silk in the 2010-11 fiscal, sources said.

In the State, according to the figures of the 2009-10 fiscal, around 34,296 families are engaged in muga farming, while 1,82, 984 families are engaged in eri farming and 31, 411 families are engaged in mulberry farming, said the sources.