1. Europe:Silk demand vs Supply
  2. Japan: No labour + No market
  3. China: Why Top Silk producer?
  4. India: Labour+market
  5. Karnataka: factors
  6. Kanchipuram: factors

In this article, we’ll examine the Geographical factors affecting location of Silk Industry.

Europe: Labor no, Silk Market yes

  • One important requirement for sericulture = cheap female labour.
  • In the ancient-medieval times, both China and Japan had lot of poor peasants. Silk production=source of side-income for them.
  • Later, sericulture was even introduced in Europe (France, Italy).
  • But, French and Italian peasants were used to higher standard of living, they were unwilling to undertake such painstaking work for little reward.
  • France- in the mid 1800s, a disease wiped out most of silkworms, sericulture industry could never recover. Thus, France has no local production of silk, yet Lyon city is famous for its silk garments. Why?
  • Lyon city of France= important fashion center= skilled labor, fashion designers available.
Raw Material
  • Silk= easy to transport, non-perishable, non-bulky. Can be easily imported from China.
  • Natural silk is considered a luxury item and fashion statement among rich in US, Europe. Good demand of silk ties, scarves and lingerie.


Sericulture was even introduced in America but failed because lack of labor and better opportunities in other crops. Example

  1. Virginia: sericulture was tried but, farmers found better income in Tobacco.
  2. Georgia: farmers tried sericulture but found better returns in cotton- even for using cheap Slave labour (recall the Georgia falls in the “Southern cotton belt”)

Japan: No labour + No market=#EPICFAIL

For long, Japan was a major producer of silk, but today it doesn’t even produce 0.5% silk in world. So, What factors caused decline of Silk industry in Japan?

Factor how did it lead to decline?
Labour younger generation of peasant /weavers shifted to industrial sector for higher wages.
Capital Investors found better returns in automobile and electronics industry= lack of investment in silk industry.
  • Japanese Women shifted from traditional garment “Kimono” to western jeans and skirts=local demand of silk declined.
  • Today Kimonos mainly worn for ceremonial/festival purpose- that small demand is met by cheap chinese silk.
  • After WW1, Silk was in high demand for women’s stockings in USA but later cheaper stockings were locally produced using American nylon=market lost.
  • One dramatic example is Koromo town of Japan. Their silk industry was on decline= land and labour available @cheap price. Toyota took the opportunity to setup factory. Thus a rural silk growing area turned into a major automobile industry.

Today, only two big players in Silk-production: China and India. Quoting the numbers from Central silk board, India:

share in world Silk production% (2011)
nation %
China ~80%
India ~18%
Jap, Brazil, Thailand, Vietnam each has 0.5% or less

Why is China the Top Silk producer of World?

Geographical factors aiding Chinese silk industry
  • Temperate and tropical climate suitable for growth of unvoltine, bivolting and polyvoltine silk varieties.
  • Lower Yangtze valley=finest white mulberry silk. This is near to Shanghai and locational advantages of Shanghai already mentioned under cotton textile biz.
Technology Chinese scientists developed hybrid varieties using Japanese and European silkworms. It is possible to rear silkworms seven times a year.
Labour China was the first country to start sericulture =labour is abundant and skilled. For additional income, they combine Sericulture with fish rearing in the Pearl-River valley=Mulberry leaves fed to Silkworm and dead silkworms fed to Fishes.
Government Policy
  • Sericulture done via cooperatives (Silk Communes) =more efficient and standard production compared to individual farmer.
  • Government provides extension service, training etc.
  • In the 90s, Chinese government upgraded silk machinery with imported parts=improved quality of silk yarn

India: Labour+market

  • India grows all important varieties of silk: Mulberry, Tasar, Oak Tasar, Eri and Muga
  • But demand >greater than> production. So even we have to import from china. (particularly bivoltine mulberry silk )
Mulberry silk Non-Mulberry
mainly in Southern states

  1. Karnataka
  2. TN
  3. AP

+ WB and JK

  1. Jharkhand
  2. Chhattisgarh
  3. Odisha
  4. NE

India: Why 2nd Largest Silk producer?

Geographical factors aiding Indian silk industry
Raw Material Mulberry plants

  • can be grown in any type of soil even in forest fringes, hill slopes
  • can withstand draught

=works well in non-green revolution, non-irrigated areas of East and NE India.

Labor Sericulture does not involve hard labor.Silkworms can be reared by women and old people=sideincome.In Eastern States, Farmers earlier used to grow Jute but Jute demand declined so they shifted to Sericulture.
Capital works on simple technology, no sophisticated equipment neededcan be done by small and marginal farmers, tribals.

Karnataka: factors

factor how does it help?
Raw material Mulberry grows easily due to climateBombax variety of silk worm can be reared throughout the yearKarnataka uses hybrids of silkworm= can harvest five to six times a year.
Water Soft water, Free from iron and alkaline salts.
  1. Men : mulberry plantation
  2. Women: rearing silk warms
Capital During WW2, entire production of Mysore silk was used for parachute manufacture. Hence silk prices escalated, good profit, more area brought under cultivation.(Recall how American War of Independence helped in expansion of Mumbai textile industry)
  • Central  Silk board located @Banglore
  • Technical knowledge sharing by Japan Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA)

Kanchipuram: factors

Within India, Kanchipuram region is most famous for Silk industry, Why?

factor how does it help?
Raw material Raw silk from KarnatakaZari threads from Surat, Gujarat(raw silk=lightweight, non-perishable)
Water Softwater from River Vegavathi.
Labour generations of silk weavers=skilled
Market Still good demand for Silk Saris in India.

In the Next article, we’ll see factors affecting the location of Wool and Jute industry.