| A silk farmer checks a cocoon in a Bhagalpur village. Picture by Amit Kumar |
Winter has turned out to be the cruellest season for Bipin Yadav, a tasar silkworm grower in Banka.
Already cornered by competitors from faraway cities like Ahmedabad and Bangalore, the tasar silkworm grower from Katiyari panchayat in Kotoria block has incurred a huge loss this year because the harsh winter affected production in an unprecedented way.
Lakshman Koda and wife Lalu Devi, residents of Chouki village, are equally disappointed with the produce despite their labour throughout the year in the hostile forest covers of Bhimbandh in Munger. They too blamed the extreme cold condition for the decline in production of tasar silk.
“The golden days of Bhagalpuri silk area are over and the manufacturers are facing a stiff competition from their counterparts in Ahmedabad and Bangalore. Now, the winter has made matters worse,” rued Bipin.
Shyam Behari Gupta, the additional director of industries (sericulture), also admitted that the recent cold spell has aggravated the silk growers’ problem. “In normal climatic conditions, the life span of tasar silkworms is between 28 and 35 days. But in winter, the lifespan of silkworms goes up. The worms consume more leaves and produce less silk. As the cold spell was acute and continued for a long period this year, the silk production was affected badly,” he said.
Even in the first two weeks of January, temperature hovered between 1ºC and 5ºC.
“A cocoon produces 1-1.2gm of silk in normal weather conditions. But the quantity fell to 0.80-0.85gm this time mainly because of the winter. Last year we had registered a record production of 25 tonnes of tasar silk. This year, we will be no way near. Besides, we cannot do much to improve the situation because we cannot influence nature,” Gupta said.
For years together, Bhagalpur has been a hub of tasar products. Arjuna and Asan tress, which are ideal for tasar worms, are abundant in the district.
Keeping all this in mind, the state government launched the Mukhya Mantri Tasar Vikash Yojna in December 2011. The project, worth Rs 170.92 crore, aimed at promoting tasar yarn manufacturing in the villages of Banka, Munger, Jamui, Nawada and Kaimur.
“The primary aim of the project was to transform rearing of tasar worms in fields surrounding the forest covers,” Gupta said.