Seri-Tourism to revitalise Bangladesh’s silk industry

Publish: 9:33 PM, December 7, 2021 | Update: 9:33:PM, December 7, 2021

Dr P R Datta
The silk industry in Bangladesh is suffering as a result of a harsh and competitive worldwide marketplace. Despite favourable agro-climatic conditions, the Bangladesh Silk Industry produces less silk than its counterparts in India and other nations. Bengal Silk was a well-known fabric in Asia and throughout the rest of the world. However, due to heavy competition from Asia and Europe, the market is becoming increasingly limited, production is falling, and the sector has suffered a significant decrease in the 1990s and 2000s.

Recently I have written in connection to the Rajshahi Silk Industry. Revitalise the Bangladesh Silk Industry,” which was published on November 14th. I have concentrated on the areas of concern and explored several critical areas that must be addressed if the industry is to achieve its full potential and obtain wider recognition. It is undoubtedly feasible to make significant and long-lasting improvements with prudent investment and strategic strategy. No one should underestimate the challenges that must be overcome. Still, there are tremendous reasons to be optimistic about a sector that has been neglected and mostly unmarked up until now. In this article, my primary focus is on tourism, specifically on whether or not sericulture may be linked to the tourism industry to enhance awareness of sericulture and the brand. However, it is necessary that I briefly discuss seri-tourism in other regions of the world before we proceed to explore the prospects of seri-tourism in our own country. To better understand the silk industry, it is also necessary to have a basic knowledge of the history of silk and its origins.

Queen Xi-Ling, the wife of Emperor Huang-Di, resided in an ancient Chinese country during the reign of Emperor Huang-Di. She enjoyed arts and crafts, as well as looming. Something fell into her teacup one day while she was sipping her tea and appreciating the blooming flowers in the springtime. Then she jumped to her feet and spilt the tea all over herself and her lovely clothes. She spotted a beautiful web of the tiniest threads on top of the tea stain on her gown, which she immediately recognised. She snatched the thin threads. They had a velvety, supple texture to the touch. She realised that Silk threads are produced by Silkworm cocoons that fall from Mulberry tree branches. She sat at her loom, weaving a design that was both intricate and sophisticated. It was her most accomplished weaving to date. The discovery of silk was highly publicised at the time. When China and the rest of the world began to establish trading relations. Silk’s reputation spread far and wide.

In the early 1960s, the practice of sericulture found its way to Tamil Nadu from its native Karnataka. Tipu Sultan, the state’s monarch at the time, was the first to introduce silk to Karnataka more than 250 years ago, according to historical records. It has developed to become India’s most crucial silk producer in recent years. Tamil N?du has eclipsed all other Indian states in terms of production of Bivoltine Silk, which Rajasthan previously held. Samarkand and Bukhara were the destinations for traders bringing Chinese silk cloth to India, much sought after by royalty and noblemen. The demand for luxurious fabrics among royal houses and temples led to Jamawar and brocade weaving centres in India’s holy towns and commercial centres.

However, it is hard to establish the exact date and time when mulberry silk production first began in Bengal, although it has long been a substantial rural industry and an essential export item in international trade. In the thirteenth century, it was referred to as Ganges silk. Mulberry farming, silkworm breeding, and yarn spinning were traditionally the responsibilities of rural Bengali households (raw silk). They sold the raw silk to weavers in the area who turned it into silk fabrics. Bengal produced more silk than was required for domestic consumption, and it exported garments and raw silk to other countries. The first European traders arrived in Bengal as a result of this trade. European trade businesses grew out of tiny commercial stations to become the dominant force in the trade. In the end, they impacted textile production and caused exports to move from textiles to raw silk to meet the demands of faraway markets.

In 1952, the city of Rajshahi in Pakistan became the first country to produce silk. The Rajshahi Silk Factory, which opened its doors in 1961, manufactures silk. Bangladesh’s government began to implement a more organised silk strategy after 1971. The Bangladesh Sericulture Development Board was established in 1978 to oversee the industry. It was founded to coordinate activities in the silk industry. Sluggish economic growth and underperformance had become the norm during that time. Sericulture is now a relatively small part of government activities, despite its significant contribution as a source of rural employment and money. Compared to their Indian counterparts, Bangladesh’s silk producers were only half as productive.

The sector faces numerous challenges; however, with innovative approaches and coordinated strategies, the industry can be revitalised and capitalised on multiple growth opportunities. Tourism is one way the sector can be promoted. A country can boost its places and nurture knowledge on specific subjects through experiential learning modes such as agri-tourism to promote agriculture and eco-tourism to promote sustainable tourism. Natural areas should be visited and appreciated in an environmentally responsible manner to enjoy the physical and accompanying cultural features (both past and present) that promote conservation and provide socio-economic benefits to the local people and edu-tourism for students and the general public. There is now a new tourism concept known as “Seri-tourism” that is linked to the sericulture industry. It is becoming increasingly popular in many parts of the world these days.

If we look at our neighbouring country, India, we will see the various ways in which the government is focusing on Seritourism. When it comes to sericulture in Tamil Nadu, the department of sericulture manages the whole sericultural activities of the state, which includes providing financial and technical assistance, marketing opportunities for farmers, and determining fair prices for businesses and individuals. In order to raise widespread awareness of sericulture, silk production, and its potential as a lucrative vocation, the department has invested several million dollars in the establishment of the world’s first Seri tourism destination. Jammu and Kashmir’s Sericulture and Tourism Departments collaborated to develop a comprehensive plan to promote ‘Seri-Tourism’ as a collaborative endeavour. The centre brings together all of the processes associated with sericulture under one roof, from soil to silk production. Model mulberry gardens have been created at the Jammu Tawi Golf Course in Sidhra and the Royal Springs Golf Course in Srinagar. Passengers travelling along the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway will soon stop by the sericulture museum built in Channapatna to better understand the operations performed by the sericulture industry.

When we look at China, we can see that the emphasis on seri-tourism is reaching new heights. Zhenze is a traditional Chinese village in Suzhou’s Wujiang district. Over 1,200 years, the town has established itself as a centre of the fish, rice, and silk industries. Silk is produced in Zhenze, known as the “City of Sericulture.” Every year, a silkworm festival is held in this town in the hopes of a successful harvest and to raise public awareness of local sericulture. Increased efforts have been made in Zhenze town to promote sericulture, the silk textile industry, and cultural tourism, and the city is looking for new and inventive ways to promote high-quality development. Zhenze has designed a new all-in-one tour that combines culture with a modern way of life. Visitors to Taihu Snow Silk Culture Park can learn about tie-dying and making mulberry leaf bookmarks in the morning. Guests can take a small train to the old town in the afternoon. Taihu Snow Silk Cultural Park in Zhenze, China, is the country’s first distinctive industrial park built around the concept of sericulture culture. One of the most popular attractions is the Silkworm Breeding Demonstration Room, which is housed within this cultural park and allows visitors to witness the entire process of creating silk products, which begins with the breeding of silkworms. Silkworms are separated in this region based on their developmental stage, beginning with newborns and progressing to those who have changed their skin tone and finally reaching the adult stage. At this point, they begin to create their cocoon, which takes several weeks.

Essentially, sericulture is silk fibre production, which may be separated into two categories: mulberry farming and silkwarming. Silk fibre started in China and moved throughout, including Bangladesh, until it reached its current location. Many sericulture museums around the world promote and raise awareness about the industry. The China National Silk Museum in Hangzhou, China, the Shanghai Jiangnan Silk Museum and the Suzhou Silk Museum in China, the Yokohama Silk Museum and the Okaya Silk Factory Museum in Japan, the Korea Silk Museum in South Korea, the Angkor silk farm in Cambodia, the Silk Museum of La Palma, the Canary Islands in Spain, the Silkworm Museum of Vittorio Veneto in Italy, and many other countries will exhibit their silk and sericulture-related products and information.

Because Rajshahi is already recognised as the “Silk City,” there is a lot of money to be made from this sector. Tourism has grown to be a big business in south-east Asia, with countries like Laos and Vietnam benefiting significantly. Rajshahi’s profile would be raised considerably by marketing it as part of the new Silk Route.

This type of location should be promoted as a must-see for everybody visiting the country. Embassies and high commissions around the world would need appropriate advertising materials. Although the tourism business is showing signs of expansion, it is clear that a preliminary study into the interests and needs of tourists has been conducted. While roads have improved, signage is still inadequate and requires dual language if it is to be effective. Tourism can be highly profitable, but it also ensures that a business is scrutinised closely, particularly when it comes to ethical standards. Bureaucracy must be reduced to a bare minimum, and health and safety must be prioritised. Although the sector would benefit from some expert assistance in this area, there is little doubt that the benefits would be substantial for all parties involved

The writer is Educator, author, and researcher, Executive Chair, Centre for Business & Economic Research, UK