Silk is a natural animal fiber obtained from different insects’ larvae. These insects use this special fiber to build cocoons. The cocoons of the larvae of bombyx mori species of silkworm produce the best quality silk. These fibers are woven to form a fabric. More than 60 countries in the world are known to produce silk. Silk production originated in China so undoubtedly, they are still the largest silk producers in the world. Other major silk producers include India, Korea, Iran, and Thailand.
It is considered to be a luxurious fabric due to its shine and smooth texture. It is mainly used for the manufacturing of clothes such as shirts, trousers, sarees, etc. Silk is also used in making different home décor furnishings and bedding. The construction of bicycle tires and parachutes uses woven silk fibers. Silk has many unique characteristics which set it apart from all other fabrics.
Characteristics of Silk
Here are some unique characteristics of silk which make it such a special fabric:
- Silk has good compatibility with dyes.
- It is composed of 80% protein called ‘’fibroin’’ and 20% sericin which is a silk gum.
- It is difficult for silk to get dirty as it has a slippery and smooth surface. Dirt does not stay on it and even if it gets dirty, it is removed by simple washing.
- Silk possesses good tensile strength.
- Silk has good absorbing properties, for this reason, it makes a comfortable cloth during summers and warmer in winters.
- It has great elasticity thus it can be stretched more than 10 to 20% of the original length.
- This fabric has moderate resistance to wrinkling and can retain its shape with ironing.
Types of Silk
There are numerous types of silk obtained from different varieties of silkworms. They differ in their qualities and features for making different types of garments. Here we have enlisted some common types of silk used worldwide.
- Dupion Silk
- Silk Satin
- Silk crêpe-backed satin
Top 10 Largest Silk Producing Countries in the World
The following table contains the list of the top ten largest silk-producing countries in the world along with their total production and production per person.
|Production Per Person (Kg)
China is the largest raw silk and silk fabric producer in the world. The woven-on hand looms in China, where an abundant supply of cheap labor is available. The Si-Kiang and the Lower Yangtze, Kiang valleys are traditional sericulture areas and the homeland of silk manufacturing in China. This is why silk prices in China are relatively low compared to the international market.
According to the statistical survey of 2012, China produced 126000 million tons. China produces 60% of the world’s silk. It exports raw silk and fabrics to the U.S.A., U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and other countries. Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Canton are the main silk manufacturing cities in China.
India ranking 2nd among the leading sericulture countries has not only a time-honored silk tradition but a rich silk fauna. The process of making has been practiced in India since ancient times. India is an important silk-producing country. India is exporting different types of silk to various countries.
Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, and Orissa are other states prominent in silk manufacturing. The first mill was established by “The East India Company” at Howrah in 1832 at present Karnataka is the premier producing state 52%.
For centuries Uzbek silk has been greatly valued throughout the world. Margilan silk is the famous silk type produced in Uzbekistan. Its worth was the same as gold and was a means of huge payments. In the second millennium BC, a ruler of Ferghana Valley was inspired by the silk products made in China. He wanted to make it in his country. So, he asked his subordinates to start manufacturing silk as the Chinese did. Since then, Uzbekistan has been producing silk fabrics, clothes, carpets, home decorations, and national souvenirs.
Uzbekistan is famous for producing natural silk. It has great characteristics as it is soft, smooth, and has a fine texture. Margilan is the largest center for silk production in the country. Two big factories are operating in the city, Yodgorlik, and Khan Atlas. Now Uzbekistan ranks as 3rd largest silk producer in the world due to its fine quality and great exports.
The sericultural activities have been taking place for more than 3000 years in Iran. The Persian carpet was the most famous silk product of Iran. The silk industry has been the source of income for many including children, women, and men of the rural communities. Iran is considered to be the first carpet weavers in the world however they have known to produce hand-woven scarves, crochet works, embroideries, and souvenirs.
Tehran is the head of Iran’s sericulture center. Almost 22 provinces of the country are active in silk farming but 96% of silkworm cultivation takes place in only seven provinces. Gilan constitutes 40% of silk production followed by Razavi Khorasan in northeastern Iran constitutes 30% of silk production.
Thailand is known for many things and their silk industry is one of them. Thai silk is known all over the world for its fine quality. More than half a million households are involved in the silk industry. Thailand has a record annual production of 700 tons of native silk yarns, 16 tons of thrown silk yarns, and 3.5-4.5 million square meters of silk fabric. The production of high-quality patterned silk fabric and heavy-weight non-patterned fabric provides employment and income to many.
Ayutthaya is a city in Thailand that is well known for its highly skilled silk weavers and dyers. Other than that, Khorat is considered the center of the silk industry in Thailand. They are known for producing rose Thai silk. The traditional Thai silk is completely natural and unique, it cannot be duplicated by using commercial means.
Brazil has always promoted sericulture as they rank as the 5th largest silk producer in the world. On a commercial scale, Brazil is considered to be the largest silk cocoon producer in the Western world. The economy of Brazil is supported by its textile industry. In the first half of 2019, the export of silk yards from Brazil was 311,000 tons. Most of the Brazilian silk is exported to Japan, Switzerland, Italy, and France.
Brazil’s main silk production center is mainly located in the north and northwest regions of Paraná. 84% of the total Brazilian silk production occurs at Paraná. There are almost 1867 small producers in 161 municipalities who are responsible for producing 2.47 tons of green cocoons. The area of this comprises 3.78 thousand hectares.
Vietnam has secured 7th place in the top ten largest silk-producing countries. The most popular type of Vietnamese silk is May silk. The silk industry manufactures many products but the most loved products include plain silk scarves, silk ties, silk textiles, and hand-painted and hand-embroidered scarves.
The two major silk-producing regions include Ha Dong and Bao Loc. Ha Dong is located in the city of Hanoi, it has many silk factories and workshops. Bao Loc is responsible for producing 80% of the country’s silk. A company called ”Vietnam Silk House” is located in this region. This company has partnered with many silk enterprises in the country to produce fine-quality of silk dresses.
Romania has had the sericulture tradition for quite some time now. Their sericulture tradition is known worldwide. The climate of Romania is favorable for the production of mulberry which leads to the production of silkworms. The importance of sericulture in Romania can be judged by their presence as the founding member of the International Sericultural Commission.
Romanian silk production has played an important role in domestic consumption as well as in exports. Romania exports silk mainly to Italy. In 2021, Romania earned $5.56M by exporting raw silk to Italy. The villages in the Oltenia region are famous for weaving silk and manufacturing Romanian blouses.
The art of sericulture which was the specialty of China for over 5000 years spread to Korea around 200 BC. Korea established its silk industry soon after China and now ranks in the first ten largest silk-producing countries. The traditional Korean dress called Hanbok is partially or wholly made of silk. The silkworm pupae are also boiled and steamed to make a snack called beondegi which is quite famous in Korea.
The city of Jinju is considered to be the home of Korean silk. It covers 70% of the silk production of the country with 4 dyeing and 50 silk weaving companies. These companies have been producing silk for over 100 years and continue to do so.
Apart from the agriculture industry, the sericulture industry has also been very important for the economy of Afghanistan. The silk business provides income to hundreds of women, who play a key role in rearing the mulberry leaves and maintaining the silkworms. Other than carpets and clothes, silk was used to make turbans and long-sleeved coats called Chapan. These silk turbans and Chapan are in great demand in Afghanistan.
Herat is the main center for silk production. Most of the silk products such as tents, handkerchiefs, etc. are manufactured here. During the 1960s, eight silk research centers were set up in the country. The Afghan silk fiber is better than Thai and Lao silk fibers and is used to make high-end fashion clothes and home decorations.
Largest Silk Exports by Country
The following table contains the list of countries with the largest silk exports in 2019.
|Trade Value in USD
|United Arab Emirates
Other Silk-Producing Countries
|Production Per Person (Kg)
The culture of rearing the silkworms to obtain silk from them is called sericulture. This culture has been part of many countries but it originated from China, making them the world’s largest silk producers. Since then, many countries followed in China’s footsteps and have established their silk industry. Silk is a luxurious cloth with fine texture and shine. It is used in making different garments for summers and winters. It is also used in making different home décor items including carpets. The silk industry has boosted the economy of many countries including India, Thailand, Iran, Korea, etc. which are ranked among the top ten largest silk producers in the world.
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