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West China

Discover China: Sericulture breaks out of cocoon in SW China

2020-05-22 09:31:07

GUIYANG, May 20 (Xinhua) -- In a factory belonging to a company called Hengsheng Silk, swarms of silkworms wriggle over the mulberry leaves in big plastic containers.

The factory is located in Jichang Township, in southwest China's Guizhou Province. Hengsheng Silk specializes in cocoon processing and silk-making and has two factories in the township. In addition, they also own fields of mulberry trees in the village of Linpan, under the jurisdiction of the township.

"We built cocoon processing and silk production factories here with an investment of about 90 million yuan (12.7 million U.S. dollars)," said Wang Yanghai, general manager of Hengsheng Silk.

Silk was a pillar industry in foreign trade in ancient China, in addition to fine china. For more than 4,000 years, the Chinese people have bred silkworms for their fine silk, considered a symbol of status and luxury in the past.

However, as the country's current urbanization drive goes into full gear and pushes up land and labor costs in the eastern seaboard, the traditional silk-making industry is shifting its location further inland, with many companies, like Wang's, setting up factories in the western part of China.

FROM EAST TO WEST

Wang's business originally started in east China's Jiangxi Province. In recent years, he moved his business to the west, including to Guizhou and Sichuan.

"The environment and the climate here in Guizhou are perfect for raising silkworms," said Wang.

Suitable temperatures for silkworms range from 22 degrees to 30 degrees Celcius. They don't thrive in cold and dry weather. High temperatures and high humidity also threaten their survival.

But the Jichang Township has an average altitude of about 1,000 meters above sea level. It is cool in the summer and moderately cold in winter. With a good natural environment, the area is perfect for the development of sericulture.

"The unique climate and good environment have created wonderful conditions for silkworms and the silk they produce is of high quality," said local official Wang Chun.

In the sericulture base in the village of Linpan, swaths of mulberry trees sway in the wind. The mulberry leaves are the "granary" of countless silkworms in the village.

"The township has more than 1,350 hectares of mulberry trees, as well as silkworm warehouses of about 100,000 square meters in area," said Wang Chun. "The annual silkworm cocoons weigh 4,500 tonnes and the annual production value exceeds 90 million yuan."

"COCOON-BREAK" FOR IMPOVERISHED FARMERS

The sericulture effectively helped local people cast off poverty in recent years.

Each hectare of mulberry trees has a production value of about 75,000 yuan, much higher than traditional crops such as corn and potatoes.

Wu Peiguang, aged 56, used to be mired in grinding poverty. He comes from a family of five, with three children in school counting on him.

"I have begun to grow mulberry trees on my farm and I also make some money by taking care of silkworms in the village," Wu said. He can rake in more than 3,000 yuan a month thanks to the sericulture.

The village has a rural cooperative to raise the silkworms, with experts invited to impart skills. After the worms form cocoons, the cocoons are taken to the factories in the township to be broken down and processed into silk.

After years of development, the Hengsheng company has established 10 production lines to break the cocoons into silk lines. The production lines can process more than 2,000 tonnes of cocoons each year and the silk they churn out enjoys popularity in regions such as Europe and South Asia.

"Our company offers more than 500 jobs for local people," said Wang Yanghai, the general manager. "We have lifted 3,000 families out of poverty by engaging them in sericulture."

Villager Xi Zhengyang is one of them.

"I used to work in an electronics factory in the eastern part of China but my health deteriorated and I had to stay at home," Xi said. "After joining the company I started breaking down the cocoons and I can make more than 4,000 yuan a month."

The coronavirus epidemic disrupted their business, both at home and abroad, Wang Yanghai said.

"Silk has always been an important part of international trade. I hope that the world gets better soon and that the business will return to normal," he added. Enditem

Editor:Jiang Yiwei

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