Higher-than-expected demand for silk internationally has nudged government to expand its production in the country with a Shs 360bn ($100 million) investment over the next five years.
Clet Wandui Masiga , the principal investigator of Tropical Institute of Development Innovations (TRIDI) under the ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations, said government has done a feasibility study and found that commercial silk production can spur jobs creation and improve household incomes.
“In the foreseeable future, silk will remain an important raw material for producing high-quality and luxury clothes. Ugandans should seize this opportunity to create rural and urban employment and economic growth,” Masiga said recently during the Budget exhibition week organized by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and Ministry of Finance at Kololo Ceremonial grounds.
Silk technologies across the value chain were displayed at the event. Masiga said silk is the most expensive textile fibre and the unit price of silk is roughly 20 times the price of raw cotton. He said China, which is the world’s leading producer of silk, has an annual turnover of about $2.5 billion.
Masiga said for the country to reap big from silk production, it needs a minimum farming acreage of 20,000 hectares, which can produce at least 2,000 tonnes of raw silk worth Shs 360 billion ($ 100 million) annually. India, which is the second largest producer of raw silk, has a domestic demand of up to 35,000 tonnes but can only indigenously produce 28,000 tonnes of raw silk.
“We are, therefore, investing in sericulture to use the latest technologies and innovations to increase the production of raw silk and silk textiles for export and domestic market,” Masiga added.
Currently the project is being implemented in the districts of Sheema, Luweero, Kiruhura, Bushenyi, Mitooma and Mubende, which got Sh 5 billion in the last financial year. The project employs over 100 people at the demonstration farm in Sheema district and over 600 farmers have taken up the technology to start production.
He said any group that is ready to join will be supported technically and financially. The entire value chain in silk production is mulberry growing, silk worm rearing, egg production, silk cocoons, silk yarn, and knitting and weaving, grey fabric, dyed/printed fabrics, finished fabrics and garment making.
“While sericulture had been an ongoing research and development activity in Uganda, there was little or unreliable research to prove the economic viability or profitability of sericulture in Uganda; that’s why we undertook the study to come up with genuine information,” he said.
He said the study proved Uganda has the potential to become a leading silk producer globally because internationally the demand for silk trumps supply. The feasibility study was implemented in the financial year 2017/2018 and, according to Masiga, each acre of mulberry plants that feed silkworm to produce silk cocoons used in the production of silk yarn creates six direct jobs. Cocoons are the byproducts of silk worms that are later processed to produce fine silk.
According to the study, Uganda has different silkworm races and mulberry varieties for enhancing sericulture in different agro ecological zones. Results from the feasibility study suggest that silk can be produced in all parts of Uganda since mulberry plants used to feed the silk worm can grow and thrive very well in all parts of the country.