November 25, 2011

Brazil Second Largest Silk Exporter, Production is Expanding

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

One of the small, but interesting agricultural activities in Brazil is the production of silk. The state of Parana is responsible for 90% of the silk produced in Brazil and the only silk factory in Brazil is located in Londrina, which is in northern Parana. Brazil is the second largest exporter of silk in the world after China and Brazil's principal customers are in Japan and Europe. Brazilian silk production is expected to increase 8% in 2011 and 20% in 2012.

In recent years silk production in Brazil fell on hard times due to larger exports from China, but it seems to now be making a comeback. The heart of silk production in Brazil is centered on the town of Nova Esperanca in northern Parana. At its peak, there were 21,000 hectares of mulberries grown to feed the silkworms, but that has now declined to 13,000 hectares. The number of growers fell from 6,500 to 4,500, but the trend has now reversed and more growers are getting into the business of producing silk. In 2011, producers planted 130 new hectares of mulberry production and 50 new silkworm houses were constructed in Nova Esperanca.

The mulberry leaves are harvested daily to feed the silkworms and the leaves from the mulberry plants can be harvested for up to 18 years.

Prices for raw silk are currently very good and that has encouraged some farmers to convert from sugarcane and cattle production to silk production. The average price paid for a kilogram of raw silk in November was R$ 10.50, which is nearly R$ 3.00 more than a year ago. One of the advantages of silk production is that it generates a monthly income whereas the income from cattle and sugarcane is generally on an annual basis.

Silk production accounts for 20,000 jobs in the state and it generates R$ 27 million in gross receipts. The silk produced in Brazil is of very good quality and the demand for Brazilian silk is outpacing the production. Brazil produces some of the best silk thread in the world and the demand has been increasing rapidly, thus the stronger prices.