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Multi-million dollars worth sphere can revive in Azerbaijan

10 June 2016 12:23 (UTC+04:00)
Multi-million dollars worth sphere can revive in Azerbaijan

By Amina Nazarli

Silk, which has set the standard in luxury fabrics for several millennia, retains its popularity because of its unique properties. The fabric is cool in summer and warm in winter.

The history of sericulture in Azerbaijan dates back to almost fifteen hundred years and has very rich history.

When it comes to silk in Azerbaijan, the first place that comes to mind is ancient city of Sheki, which once considered the largest center for the production of silk and silk farming in the Middle Ages.

The development of sericulture put this ancient Azerbaijani city in the center of great caravan routes, and that encouraged constructing new caravanserais, bustled city life, as well as had a significant impact on the development of trade and crafts in the region.

Delicate fabrics, beautiful clothes, and colorful kelagayis (silk headscarf) manufactured by Sheki craftsmen from raw silk, were exported to foreign countries, so the city became famous for its silk throughout the world.

In the Soviet period, Azerbaijan ranked second after Uzbekistan for the production of silk cocoon, but was considered first in fiber quality. The country annually produced 7,800 tons of raw cocoons in 1960-1970, while the overall production dropped to 10 tons in 2014.

Earlier this April, President Ilham Aliyev made a statement that the country has lost such an important branch of agriculture as silkworm breeding.

“Of course, the price plays an important role: at what price it will be purchased from producers," he said adding the necessity to develop sericulture.

For centuries silk has brought considerable income to the country, but for the past several years, the production went into decline.

Revival of ancient craft

Azerbaijan has great opportunities for development of silkworm breeding, believes Associate Professor of the Azerbaijan State Economic University (UNEC) Gadir Bayramli, noting that this process requires a long time.

“Mulberry leaves are the main meal of silkworm. In Soviet times, large mulberry gardens were planted in more than 15 regions of Azerbaijan. But now they have been destroyed,” he told local media.

Silkworm breeding is very laborious work, since in order to obtain 100 kg of mulberry, silkworms should eat one ton of mulberry leaves. The expert said that first, the country should restore the landing and wait another 3-4 years for the first harvest.

Bayramli also suggested to use the experience of the Sheki Regional Sericulture Center, whose specialists have a great experience in this sphere.

He noted that production of cocoons can be a profitable branch for Azerbaijan, and if completely revive the activity of Sheki silk factory, the country can provide at least 15,000-20,000 people with job.

Moreover, one of the advantages of cocoons production is that "crop" here can be obtained within 40 days, according to the expert.

Now it seems the time to revival of this ancient industry, which may become one of the most important segment of the non-oil economy. The Agriculture Ministry has developed a program for the development of sericulture in the country and submitted to the Cabinet.

Head of Crop Production Department of the Agriculture Ministry Imran Jumshidov noted that the ministry is taking consistent steps to promote cocoons production and this year the country expects to manufacture some 75 tons of cocoons, further increasing the production ratio to 3,037 tons next year.

“We brought silkworm eggs from China and Iran. Now they are going through a period of incubation in the Gakh sericulture station. These silkworms will be distributed free of charge to cocoon producers,” he told local media.

The price of one ton of cocoons in the international markets is varies from $9,000 to $10,000, while the price of silk fabric is twice as much.

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Amina Nazarli is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @amina_nazarli

Follow us on Twitter @AzerNewsAz

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