Jogulamba Gadwal: Jogulamba Gadwal has become a front-runner in production of silk in Telangana State after the reorganisation of districts just one-and-a-half years ago. What used to be just 80 acres of mulberry cultivation has increased to more than 150 acres, thanks to the subsidies sericulture farmers have been receiving from the government. Farmers in Nadigadda are considering sericulture as a sustainable livelihood option these days.
Through Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) material component, farmers have been getting Rs 1,13,000 for building sheds to grow silkworms and Rs 60,000 per acre for growing mulberry crop (crop maintenance) through the wage component of the scheme.
There were about 80 beneficiaries before the districts’ reorganisation, which has now gone up to 150 sericulture farmers. Awareness was also created among farmers by the Horticulture Department, under which sericulture is managed in the district.
As a result, even in the remote villages like Bynapally and Pulikal in Ieeja mandal which borders Telangana with Rayalaseema region, sericulture has found new takers. There are eight newly registered sericulture farmers in Pulikal gram panchayat which includes Bynapally and two other hamlets.
Punju Nagamma and her son Punju Manikyamma are two sericulture farmers who have been cultivating mulberry since three years. They are small farmers who have taken the government subsidy and have built sheds to raise silkworm in their farmlands. They have hired an expert named Venugopal Reddy, a sericulture expert from Chittoor district a year ago, to take care of their farm. Today, Reddy not only serves his family but also other families in providing his services to sericulture farmers in the region (comes with a charge), so that maximum yield could be achieved without incurring major losses.
There was a time in the early and late nineties, when farmers in Telangana region had showed great interest in sericulture. But due to mulberry crops failing and silkworms dying, farmers had suffered heavy losses back then. Since then, sericulture, which had huge potential in Telangana region, had seen a drastic decline.
“It is true that farmers suffered in the past. But the reason then was that farmers had to dedicate a considerable amount of time in cutting the right kind of leaves and feeding the larva at a very early stage of their life cycle. If anything went wrong, the entire yield used to be destroyed. Now, we are being provided Chaaki (silkworms) after rearing them from their larva stage. It is easier now because leaves need not be cut and branches can now be directly fed to silkworms. Maintaining hygiene and temperature are paramount to success in sericulture,” opined Pathuri Somi Reddy, District Horticultural Officer, Jogulamba Gadwal.
However, sericulture farmers still come complaining about their silkworms dying in just an hour. There is a reason for this, say experts like Venugopal Reddy. “Silkworms fed by mulberry crop in previously fertilizer and pesticide used fields tend to die due to the harmful effects of chemicals,” said Venugopal Reddy, speaking to Telangana Today.
Fortunately, Singa Reddy has a solution to the problem. He has been recommending the farmers to grow two crops of maize or some other crop organically (for a year) before starting sericulture and growing mulberry, so that the effects of chemicals can be nullified or at least reduced.
According to Somi Reddy, silk rates have pretty much remained stable in the recent past, with minimum price per kilogram being Rs 400 per kg. According to him, 150 disease-free layings per acre can yield 150 kg of silk. If the price is Rs 400 per kg, the crop would yield Rs 48,000 per crop, which can be harvested within a month with an expenditure of Rs 8,000 to 10,000 per crop. This would mean 7 to 8 crops can be harvested in a year, fetching returns of almost Rs 3.5 lakh for a farmer, per acre.
Till now, sericulture farmers in Telangana had no other option but to take their cocoons to be threaded and sold at procurement centres at Hindupur in Rayalaseema region and Trimulgherry in Secunderabad.
With the new Gadwal Textile Park coming up and due to the growing demand for silk yield from Telangana which has an edge over silk from other regions, sericulture farmers are hoping that a procurement centre with a threading and a silk processing centre with skilled workers and modern machinery would be setup at the Gadwal Textile Park, which is under construction in Jogulamba Gadwal.