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Portugal

SERICULTURE IN PORTUGAL
The sericulture followed the history of the Portuguese people until the mid-twentieth century, from when it started to crumble and even disappeared from the commercial channels, ending a coexistence of eight centuries.
The Arabs introduced the sericulture industry in the Iberian Peninsula. Even today, in Portugal, there are still traces of the ordinary sericulture language such the word alferga (from the Arab al-hilqa, thimble), which is the measure of the silkworms, represented by the portion of the common reed, between two knots.
The first document, in Portugal, which mentioned the creation of the silkworm and mulberry planting dated from 1233, is the foral confered by the Archbishop of Braga, D. Silvestre Godinho. As passing by in Chaves, he gave this document to the residents of Couto Ervededo in which ordered that the mulberry leaves should not be sold out of this area.
In Portugal, Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro was always the main production area for silk and silk products manufacturing.
In 1891 in Mirandela was created the first and only national Sericulture Station that was closed at 1898. This unit aimed to train qualified silkworm producers, to obtain healthy eggs, to improve silk production methods and the culture of the mulberry trees and also to obtain statistical data. It was reopened in 1930 with the name of Sericulture Station Meneses Pimentel.
Along the decades there were several authors that thought to be possible the resurgence of the silkworm production in Portugal. In 1930, we had national legislation to: (1) protection of mulberry's production, (2) silkworm protection, (3) associations and silk production unions, (4) protection of silk spinning industry, (5) development station for silkworm production, drying stations and the cocoon storage, (6) central committee and regional committees of sericulture. Despite these attempts the national silk production industry declined and was almost extinguished.
In 1994, the areas of the North and Centre of Portugal accommodated the seventh conference of the cultural routes of the European Council, mainly focused on the role of silk and textiles as structuring elements in the regional economy. The meeting was the springboard for the official launching of the Portuguese silk route, centered on an area historically strongly related to sericulture.
On the site of Chacim, archaelogical findings revelead parts of an old silk mill that once again showed the importance of this industry in Trás-os-Montes.
In Portugal, the silk is still used in our days, not only in the traditional way, but also as a very flexible technical and scientific platform for revolutionary products mainly in the biomedical sector, as a biomaterial.

For contacts:
Prof. Jorge Azevedo
Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro
Escola de Ciências Agrárias e Veterinárias
Departamento de Zootecnia
5000-801 Vila Real • PORTUGAL
Telefone: +351 259 350 416
E-mail: jazevedo@utad.pt


 


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