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Brief Information about Sericulture Status in Iran

 

Introduction

More than 3000 years of sericultural activities in Iran , mingled this skill/art with creative talent of Iranian, resulted to Persian carpet as the most common silk product at the time being. As the Silk Road traversed Iranian territory, the Iranians were among the first to learn the trade, gaining global fame for their silk items. During the Sassanian era, in the 5th and 6th century AD, silk production was a booming business in Iran . Historical accounts reveal that for centuries, silkworm rearing was a lucrative business in many agricultural regions in Iran . The shiny soft silk of Guilan was mainly shipped to European markets. English, Dutch, French and Italian merchants vied in buying pure silk or dried cocoons from different parts of Iran . Information accumulated by a former British foreign secretary, Lord Cruizon, confirms that the silk output of Guilan alone stood at 1,300 tones in the 17th century AD.

Sericulture has a lot of significance social effects on Iranian community. Apart from providing jobs to a wide range of the nation's work force, the silk industry employs inactive members of rural communities, such as women, children and the elderly who are incapable of taking part in agricultural activities. People in rural areas can engage in silk production as a sideline and the additional income earned by rural dwellers can prevent their migration to cities.

The Iranians were the first carpet weavers among the ancient civilizations and through centuries of creativity and ingenuity building upon the talent of the past, achieved a unique degree of excellence. A country-wide expanded endeavor more than 2 million persons especially rural women share hands to put art, skill and ambition together manifesting as Persian carpet with its particular dignity in the nation economy (about 20% of non-oil export of country). Some other silk related handicrafts such as especial fabrics, embroideries, hand woven scarves, traditional babouche, crochet works and souvenirs, even though in a limited extent, can't be ignored as they demonstrate the potentiality of Iranian to vast their virtual creation.

Recently, some national and international factors have trended to impact the domestic silk production for last few years. The obstacles against sericultural promotion in Iran are mainly: increasing of production costs, unstable international silk market, competition of other agricultural/industrial products, monopolization of raw silk consumption for carpet weaving, gradual withdrawal of traditional silk producers and smuggling of cocoon and raw silk.

 

Mulberry Cultivation in Iran

At present, mulberry trees are chiefly grown in provinces of Guilan, Mazandaran, Khorasan, Eastern Azerbaijan, Isfahan and Yazd . Every hectare of a mulberry garden can produce 10 tones of leaves. But if the tree species are improved, the yield can surge to 25 tones per hectare. Most of the mulberry cultivations in Iran consist of local varieties from Morus alba and Morus nigra species. Majority of the mulberry plantations in Iran are of field-border or intercrop types owned by petty landowners and mono-cultured type can be found in few cases. In Guilan, silkworm owners grow concentrated mulberry gardens. However since 1978 some improved mulberry varieties such as Kenmuchi, Kairyo-nezumigaeshi, Ichinose, Shin-Ichinose, Roso, Tachibana, Kokuso and etc, have been imported from Japan and mainly planted in the governmental farms in Guilan province which serve as sources of improved sapling production for farmers.

 

Silkworm germplasm and breeding in Iran

With employing several national and international projects and executive programs for silkworm breeding and egg production, the self sufficiency for hybrid egg production was gained in Iran . This remarkable prosperity could not be achieved except through establishment of silkworm gene bank and introduction of commercial pure lines and genetic stocks domestically. Through these advancements, Iran had the opportunity to expert silkworm eggs to some neighboring countries with keeping the final products at a high international standard.

 

Organization Structure:

All government authorized centers involved in sericultural activities in Iran are located in Guilan province at the south coast line of Caspian sea .

 

Iran Silkworm Rearing Company ( ISRC ) was established in 1980 under the supervision of Ministry of Agriculture. This company is responsible for procurement, production and supply of commercial silkworm eggs and production of improved mulberry saplings. Purchasing of cocoon from the farmers on the basis of annually announced guaranteed price by the government is another duty of this company as well as providing technical services and training for farmers.

 

Iran Sericulture Research Center is responsible for all sericultural related research activities in Iran ; this Institute is under supervision of Agricultural Research and Training Organization-Ministry of Agriculture. The center countrywide would be involved in:

• Maintenance and protecting of silkworm and mulberry genetic resources;

• Implementation of different studying projects to introduce the suitable and economic methods for mulberry propagation, planting and maintenance as well as proper technologies for silkworm egg production / incubation and silkworm rearing;

• Presenting of suitable controlling methods for pests and diseases of mulberry and silkworm;

• Introduction of new pure lines and commercial varieties of silkworm through classic breeding plans as well as impletion of genetic engineering and bio-technological methods;

• Employing various projects for utilization of silk and silkworm related new substances as non-fabric products;

 

This center employing about 20 ha of improved mulberry plantation from different varieties and 9000 m 2 of silkworm rearing and office construction follows the studies about silkworm, mulberry, soil and water, pests and diseases control, etc. In this regard annually 20-30 studying projects are implemented to support the technical demands of sericultural activities in Iran . Furthermore the center serves as the unique station for collection, evaluation and preservation of mulberry and silkworm genetic resources including more than 100 varieties and genetic groups of silkworm. Toward achievement of the written goals for self sufficiency in silkworm egg production, with corporation of FAO and UNDP the project of improvement of method/technology for silkworm breeding and egg production has been started since 1992. The project execution during five years, with employing the qualified international and national specialists, resulted to obtain necessary knowledge about the latest techniques for silkworm breeding and introduction of several promising lines with high performance and resistance. This showed the capability to adopt with the conditions of different regions of Iran and also provide much better possibilities for hybrid silkworm egg production.

 

University of Guilan is the only university in Iran which deals with sericulture. Department of sericulture was established at this university in 2002 to have a counseling role for executive organizations and to improve their scientific and technological level, with respect to the wide range of scientists specialized on sericulture fields working in this dept. Currently, all the activities of this dept. are concentrated on biotechnology, genetics and molecular markers, pathology and cell culture of silkworm. In near future graduate students will be enrolled on the field of industrial entomology.

 

Sericultural Statistics

 

The amount of country demand for hybrid silkworm egg decreased from about 203599 boxes in 2000 to 55180 boxes in 2007. The statistics for silkworm egg and cocoon production are shown in Table 1. As it has been outlined in fig 1, silkworm rearing has always had fluctuations but unfortunately it has had intense decrease from 2000 and since that year it could not have any relative growth in a way that Iran 's share from fresh cocoon production in the world is 0.4%. But quantitatively, it has the forth place world wide while its amount of production has significant difference with countries like China and India . With respect to the intensive reduction of production in the region, it seems that Uzbekistan and Iran are the most important producers in the region.

 

The above statistics made the authorities to develop new policies in order to improve the sericulture in Iran . One of the ways that government has had to abet the farmers was higher prices for guaranteed cocoon sells and subsidies which unfortunately even these policies did not persuade farmers enough to have a considerable effect on cocoon production.
 
 
Year
Number of Family involved in Sericulture in Iran
Number of Silkworm egg boxes used by Iranian farmers
Fresh Cocoon production
(ton)
Price per 1 kg for fresh cocoon weight
(guaranteed by government)
2007
20440
55180
1653.7
33890 IRR
2006
28538
77068
1911.2
33000 IRR
2005
33165
89550
2417.8
31000 IRR
2004
37710
98050
2598.3
29200 IRR
2003
42200
113938
3121.9
27500 IRR
2002
51192
139244
3884.9
25300 IRR
2001
65970
191311
5356.7
23500 IRR
2000
70206
203599
5497.1
20000 IRR

 

 

Figure 1. Number of silkworm egg boxes were sailed by government in Iran

 

 

For contacts:

Dr Kayvan Etebary, BACSA National coordinator for Iran

Dept. of Sericulture, Faculty of Natural Resources, University of Guilan , Somehe sara , Iran

e-mail: k_etebari@yahoo.com


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