In Covid-19 during lockdown has taken away shine of Silk in Bengal or Assam. Bengal and Assam contribute over 20% to the national yield of India, and after this they are the largest consumer country of silk in the world and the second largest producer in the world.

“Unique in nature, silk production involves growing of living silkworm and growing Mulberry, Tassar, Eri or Muga trees to feed them with the leaves. Then processing and utilization of silk fibre. Entire multi-tier and sensitive process is highly labour intensive,” said Ujjal Saha, President of Cold Storage Owners Association, Malda. Murshidabad and Malda are two main silk hubs in Bengal. Silkworm is kept in cold storage for few days in its 50 – 55 days long life cycle.

According to Central Silk Board statistics, West Bengal Assam contribute around 6.5 thousand Metric Ton (MT)silk to India’s total annual output of over 35,000MT. Over 80% of that is consumed in domestic market.

As estimated, over 15 lakh workers are involved in ground level silk activities in these two states. “Usually entire family remains involved as it is not a heavy labour job.” said Pradyut Mandal an important farmer.

“It demands multi-tire labour activities. Calculated feeding of worms, maintaining temperature or humidity, reshuffling trays, etc. Then extracting and processing of fibres to make exotic silk cloths. On the other side, growing plucking and processing leaves is another major sector. Plus, making thousands of big bamboo trays to keep millions of worms is another major sector,” said Sahjahan Haque, an expert Silk grower.

Interestingly, to produce 1 kg of silk fibre, over 3000 worms eat over 100 kg leave and it takes about 5000 to silkworms to make one full size gown.

“Shortage of labour has put entire process under deep crisis. Without proper maintenance, almost 50% of worms are already dead. We are apprehending over 50% loss of yield,” said Saha.

“The long-term effect of this will be even deeper as the roll of capital in this multi-tier chain got shattered. The industry may perish altogether if Govt does not take effective measures immediately after the lockdown is over,” he added.