Dragon Weaves Silk Saris For Desi Eves

Updated: Nov 27 2002, 05:30am hrs
Next time when you buy your favourite silk sari, whether at Kancheepuram or elsewhere, take a closer look. Apart from the hefty price tag you may also notice a Made in China tag, adorning the nine meter-long cloth considered as the ultimate symbol of Indian womanhood.

Yes, it is official. The Chinese silk industry seems to have developed a fancy for Bhartiya Naris favourite cloth material. To learn more about it, the Chinese have taken a few traditional weavers from Tamil Nadu to China. The Chinese seems to be keen on knowing more about the intricacies and splendour of Indian silk saris and to find out whether the weavers could recreate the same magic with the Chinese silk. The Chinese - limited to the mono-culture of the dragon-based designs - seems to be intrigued by the rich variety and diversity of design patterns of Indian saris.

Central Silk Board chief operating officer Joy Oommen has confirmed the visit of weavers from Tamil Nadu to China. We have information that some Chinese silk manufacturers had taken a few weavers from Kancheepuram to China recently. We think it was basically to get an idea of the Indian silk sari industry.

The attempt to scale the sari wall is part of a double whammy strategy adopted by China to smother the growing Indian silk industry by dumping cheap raw silk while at the same time going for finished product having a market in India.

The price of imported Chinese raw silk has registered a steep fall over the past two years. From a high of $24 per kg during 2000, imported Chinese silk is available at $13 a kg now. Anything below $18 could be construed as dumping as the current price of $13 will be well below the cost of production, says Mr Oommen.

Though the Central Silk Board has approached the anti-dumping officials nothing has worked out in this regard so far. The import lobby in Delhi seems to be quite powerful, says the seri-culture farmer who also say some farmers in Karnataka (which accounts for 60 per cent of the countrys silk production) has abandoned the cultivation due to the low price.

The Union government had assured the Lok Sabha during the Monsoon session that it would consider hiking import duty of silk following the low-priced imports from China. At present, silk (an unbound commodity) attracts a duty of around 35 per cent.

Silk Board officials also disputes the contention that low-priced imports will benefit the weavers. Weavers always depend upon traders for raw material and there is no evidence to show that the low price (on account of imports) was passed on to them, points out Mr Oommen.

The solace for silk sari for the time being hinges on the Indian multi-voltaine silk. The uniqueness of Indian silk saris are attributed to multi-voltaine silk while China largely accounts for bio-voltaine silks.