The status of sericulture in India as a rural agro practice has transformed distinctly over the past few years. In fact, from the status of a livelihood option for the marginal farmers with low and medium land holding, it has reached such a stage where large number of educated youth are looking on silkworm raising as a viable enterprise with a potential of providing their localities, especially womenfolk with decent employment opportunity. The importance of high quality disease free silkworm hybrid seed in this mini-enterprise is well recognized and acknowledged.
As in any other agricultural avocation, seed is the most important factor in sericulture as well, that primarily decides the quality of the crop and its yield potential. Established Silkworm Seed Production Centres (SSPCs) running on fool-proof and quality management system of production, preservation and distribution only can excel in production and supply of quality silkworm eggs consistently. In this genre, NSSO has been a trendsetter with replicable forward and backward linkage models put in place. Obviously, the success of such a management scheme depends on the way the SSPCs function, backed by Basic Seed Farms (BSFs), and Seed Cocoon Procurement Centres (SCPCs) and the dedicated team efforts of the personnel manning such centres. The model conceptualized and perfected by NSSO of adopting seed farmers to generate and supply high quality seed cocoons to the SSPCs throughout the year on prefixed prices linked to the quality parameters of the produce is one the key attributes of the success of NSSO. Private chawki rearing centres are the most important link between the SSPCs and the commercial silkworm rearers. They buy the silkworm eggs in bulk from the SSPCs, scientifically rear them up to second moult and distribute to the farmers of the captive area largely easing the commercial silkworm rearing process especially during the young stage. The extension centres also play equally important role in making the silkworm eggs available in time to the CRCs and providing them with technical advice. With these, NSSO remains in close contact and coordination with farmers and entrepreneurs.
In the backdrop of a larger picture, it has become more evident that India is increasing its share of bivoltine raw silk production at a much faster pace thanks to the special initiatives such as cluster promotion programme (CPP). In this scenario, NSSO assumes a more prominent role than ever before, because the burden of producing the major share of bivoltine hybrid seed is borne by NSSO albeit the latest move to attract private players into the arena. The registered private seed producers lack the expertise for bivoltine hybrid seed production apart from the lack of facilities for preserving the eggs for mandatory period ranging from four to six months. Generation of quality seed cocoons is another serious bottleneck they are to encounter. Acknowledging the leadership position it enjoys and also the years of experience and expertise, NSSO has offered to lend support to the private producers and also the willing state departments. The initial handholding could be in the form of imparting training in large scale bivoltine seed production including loose egg production, generating and supplying high quality seed cocoons following the established procedure of buy back and offering cold storage facilities for egg perseveration. These assistance could be for a limited period and NSSO expects the entrepreneurs and organizations to be self reliant as the time goes.
To produce the country’s requirement of high quality silkworm seed especially bivoltine is the collective responsibility of all the stakeholders. Since NSSO doubles up as the Registration Authority under the Central Seed Act, all the seed sector producers such as Seed Producers, Chawki Rearers and Seed Cocoon Producers regardless of public or private, ought to register themselves under the Act and strictly adhere to the terms and conditions laid down. This would culminate in a serious effort to reform the decades old Indian Sericulture seed sector resulting in producing and distributing high quality disease free silkworm seed leading to robust silkworm crops on a continuous basis enabling the country to produce raw silk of international grade and to become fully import free.