Textile industry is one of the strategic economic activities in Europe, with a yearly turnover of 190 billions euro and the capacity of employing 2.5 million workers distributed in more than 220,000 EU-27’s companies, whose most part are Small and Medium Enterprises (SME). The textile and clothing sector account for 3% of total manufacturing added value in Europe, according to the last structural available data (Enterprise and Industry magazine n. 13, July 2012, In 2009 the silk import of Italy (80% of the silk consumption in the European Union) was as follows: raw silk: 510,357 kg; silk thread waste: 608,683 kg; doubled silk yarns: 643,441 kg; schappe silk yarn 368,165 kg; without counting silk tissues (more than 2 million kg only for pure silk tissues) and silk garments.
Even though the textile and clothing industry represents a very heterogeneous sector, which covers several activities of transformation of fibres into different yarns and fabrics, silk is a very significant Italian textile production and, even in a difficult economic period like 2011, the silk district of Como recorded an increase of the total turnover of +11.7% (La Seta, 2, 2012). Hence, to strengthen European silk production can establish a huge advantage for the Italian textile industry. On the other hand, continuous innovation in the textile field has no alternatives to win international competition and improving the process sustainability is the only way to save on costs and to give an additional value to the final industrial output.
Italian silk industry is demanding high quality silk in addition to a high quantity of silk, and the Chinese market is constantly decreasing its quality. For this reason, Italian industry is re-considering to establish part of cocoon production in Europe and possibly in Italy again. Italy has never completely stopped cocoon production even though a great difficulty came from the fact that silk reeling plants stopped their activity at the end of ‘70s of the last century. A big additional constraint came from the fact that an Insect Growth Regulator, fenoxycarb, has been used for about 20 years in a quite illegal manner on Italian fruit crops, seriously damaging silkworm rearing in the Northern part of Italy and discouraging farmers from rearing.
However, some signals of re-newed interest have been noticed on the side of companies and farmers. For the first time after many years, in the springtime of 2012, some rearers in the Northern part of Italy began rearing silkworm again for cosmetics and a company was available to buy their production. A new product for personal care based on cocoons will be launched on the cosmetic market in 2013. A project, supported by the European community, is going on with the participation of some textile industries.
CRA-API of Padua is capable of producing some hundreds of silkworm boxes per year, and the performances of egg boxes have been very good for the current year. The same institution is actively working on silkworm genetics and artificial diet in order to support biomedical and niche textile production of cocoons. On the other hand, Stazione Sperimentale per la Seta of Milan has been continuing its activity on the industrial research side and on the analyses in order to obtain optimal qualitative standards of silk production for the textile and biomedical field. The two institutions have begun to collaborate on a new project SILKBIOTECH, approved in June 2012 and supported by the Regione Lombardia and some textile and biomedical industries. Therefore the premises are good for re-launching a small activity of technological rearing in Italy.

For contacts: Dr. Silvia Cappellozza, CRA (Council of Research and Experiments in Agriculture) Apiculture and Sericulture Unit of Bologna, Padua seat, Via Eulero, 6A, 35143 Padua ITALY; Tel. +39 049 620205; FAX. +39 049 623119; e-mail:


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