Silk Boom: Opportunity for Thailand

As Chinese wages rise & more silk used in China, global supplies fall & prices rise, creating silk opportunity for Thailand.

Silkworm and the cocoon that silk comes from (Source: Wikipedia)

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SERICULTURE

Soaring silk prices lead to surge in number of farmers

7 May 2013
Nanchanok Wongsamuth

A silk dress.

A surge in silk yarn prices in the last two years has attracted more silk farmers, according to the Queen Sirikit Department of Sericulture (QSDS).

Most Thai silk is used in the domestic market but plans are afoot to increase production.

An increase in minimum wages in China, the largest silk producer, coupled with lower silk exports due to increased use in that country, has caused the global supply of silk to dwindle.

Current prices are 1,700 to 1,800 baht a kilogramme after doubling in the last two years, said QSDS deputy director-general Oratai Silapanapaporn.

China produces 100,000 tonnes of silk a year, good for 80% of the global market, while Thai silk exports account for just 0.1% of global production, with most Thai silk used locally.

Meanwhile, countries that used to import from China are choosing to import from alternative countries as quality declines in China.

With prices on the rise, Mrs Oratai said the QSDS hopes to increase the number of silk farmers by 20,000 a year.

The department, which comes under the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry, was set up three years ago to help support silk farmers.

Thailand had about 100,000 rai of land for mulberry cultivation by 94,000 farmers in 2012, up from 80,000 in 2011.

The number of farmers is still down by a third from 20 years ago as a result of farmers switching to the industrial sector or growing other crops.

"But if we promote an increase in production, we have to make sure that there's a market to support it," said Mrs Oratai

For instance, Japan wants hand-woven silk, while European garment makers want soft and flexible silk, including types that Thailand is still unable to manufacture. 

She also stressed the need to increase land for cultivation. The ministry is in talks with the Agricultural Land Reform Office for that purpose.

Thailand still faces a shortage of industrial silk, with local production making up just half of the yearly demand for 320 tonnes.

The country's overall silk production each year is 600 tonnes, of which 500 tonnes is used locally.

Busaya Cunvong, deputy manager of Chul Thai Silk Co, Thailand's biggest silk maker, said farmers can cultivate mulberries and raise silkworms to provide a monthly income, complementing other crops that provide a yearly revenue.

Thailand has 1,700 silk farmers supplying 160 tonnes a year for industrial production. Ms Busaya said production can be increased to 300 tonnes a year within three years.

A farmer with 6-7 rai of land earns 150,000 to 300,000 baht a year, she said.

The upcoming Asean single market offers an opportunity for Thai silk, she said, as the regional bloc's 10 member countries use silk in many important ceremonies.

Although other countries like Vietnam also make silk, Thailand is a stronger player with a larger variety of products.

(Source: Bangkok Post, SERICULTURE, Soaring silk prices lead to surge in number of farmers, 7 May 2013, Nanchanok Wongsamuth, link


Silk Cultivation Vocabulary

silk - a natural fiber woven into cloth and used to make clothes ไหม (See Wikipedia)
silkworm - the cocoon or outer covering of the silkworm is used to make silk ตัวไหม (See Wikipedia)
silk cloth - ผ้าไหม

sericulture - silk farming, raising silkworms for the silk production (See Wikipedia & pronunciation & photos

raise - to take care of an animal so that it grows from a baby to an adult เลี้ยงดู, เลี้ยง
raise silkworms

mulberry - the food of the silkworm used to make silk (See Wikipedia)

cultivate (verb)
cultivate mulberries

cultivation (noun) - growing plants
mulberry cultivation

Thailand had about 100,000 rai of land for mulberry cultivation by 94,000 farmers in 2012, up from 80,000 in 2011.

soar - to increase suddenly by a large amount
soaring silk prices
Soaring silk prices lead to surge in number of farmers

surge - a sudden increase in something การเพิ่มขึ้นอย่างรวดเร็ว
surge in number of farmers
surge in prices

attract - when something that looks goods causes people to want it and come and get it
a surge in prices has attracted farmers

yarn - a long continuous length of fibers locked together (See Wikipedia) เส้นด้าย ม้วนด้าย
silk yarn

silk yarn prices
surge in silk yarn prices

A surge in silk yarn prices in the last two years has attracted more silk farmers, according to the Queen Sirikit Department of Sericulture (QSDS).

domestic - within the country ภายในประเทศ
domestic market

plans are afoot to - people are making plans and arrangements for something to happen now
plans are afoot to increase production

Most Thai silk is used in the domestic market but plans are afoot to increase production.

wages - the amount of money earned per hour by a worker
minimum wages - the lowest amount of money that can be paid to workers for their work
an increase in minimum wages in China

producer -  ผู้ผลิต
silk producer - a farmer or company or whole country that makes silk
China, the largest silk producer

global - throughout the world ทั่วโลก ทั้งโลก all over the world, including the whole world
the global supply

dwindle - reduce in number ลดจำนวนลง
global supply of silk has dwindled

An increase in minimum wages in China, the largest silk producer, coupled with lower silk exports due to increased use in that country, has caused the global supply of silk to dwindle.

local (adjective)- in this country
locally (adverb)  

used locally -
used in this country (Thailand)
most Thai silk is used locally

local
production
local silk production

The country's overall silk production each year is 600 tonnes, of which 500 tonnes is used locally.

good for - is enough for be .....
good for 80% of the global market - is enough to be 80% of the global market

China produces 100,000 tonnes of silk a year, good for 80% of the global market, while Thai silk exports account for just 0.1% of global production, with most Thai silk used locally.

import - to buy or bring in products from another country นำเข้า
import goods from China

alternative - another choice; something that is different from what is usual ตัวเลือก / ทางเลือก
choosing to import from alternative countries as quality declines.

Meanwhile, countries that used to import from China are choosing to import from alternative countries as quality declines.

support - help, by giving money, for example สนับสนุน
The department, which comes under the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry, was set up three years ago to help support silk farmers.

sector - a part of the economy (public sector = government, private sector = all businesses, household sector = families and consumers, banking sector,...) ภาคเศรษฐกิจของประเทศ (See Wikipedia)
agricultural sector

industrial
sector - the manufacturing part of the economy (factories producing goods for sale in country or as exports outside of the country)
farmers switching to the industrial sector

The number of farmers is still down by a third from 20 years ago as a result of farmers switching to the industrial sector or growing other crops.

promote - take action to make something happen
promote an increase in production
if we promote an increase in production, we have to make sure that there's a market to support it.

woven - a cloth made by weaving (See Wikipedia) เสื้อผ้าที่ลวดลายถักทอ 
hand-woven - cloth made by weaving with the hands (not by a machine)
hand-woven silk

garments - clothes
garment makers - companies that make clothes

soft -  easy to push and change shape; not hard, stiff, rough or firm  นุ่ม, อ่อนๆ, นิ่ม
soft silk

flexible - able to bend or move easily; can change shape easily, elastic ยืด, ยืดหยุ่น, ยืดหยุ่นได้
flexible silk

For instance, Japan wants hand-woven silk, while European garment makers want soft and flexible silk, including types that Thailand is still unable to manufacture. 

stress - emphasize, make people know that something is important
She also stressed the need to increase land for cultivation.

ministry - a government department dealing with an area of activity กระทรวง

talks
- negotiations, formal discussions of problems between different sides in a conflict in order to solve the problem
in talks with

The ministry is in talks with the Agricultural Land Reform Office for that purpose.

shortage - when there is not enough of something การขาดแคลน
a shortage of industrial silk

demand - the amount of goods and services that people or consumers want to buy ความต้องการ
yearly silk demand of 320 tonnes.

Thailand still faces a shortage of industrial silk, with local production making up just half of the yearly demand for 320 tonnes.

cultivate - to prepare land and grow crops on it เตรียมเพื่อเพาะปลูก, เพาะปลูก
cultivate mulberries

provide - to give someone something that they want or need
cultivate mulberries to provide monthly income

complement - something that goes well with something, adds value to it องค์ประกอบที่ทำให้สมบูรณ์
complementing other crops
mulberries complement other crops

income
- money that people receive from work or some other source, used for household consumption and savings
monthly income

revenue - income from taxes or business activities รายได้
yearly revenue

Busaya Cunvong, deputy manager of Chul Thai Silk Co, Thailand's biggest silk maker, said farmers can cultivate mulberries and raise silkworms to provide monthly income, complementing other crops that provide yearly revenue.

upcoming - will happen soon ที่กำลังจะมาถึง
the upcoming Asean single market

opportunity - a situation when it is possible to do something that you want to do (See glossary)
an opportunity for Thai silk

regional bloc - a group of countries in the same region (here means: ASEAN)
the regional bloc's 10 member countries

The upcoming Asean single market offers an opportunity for Thai silk, she said, as the regional bloc's 10 member countries use silk in many important ceremonies.

variety - many different types of things or people ความหลากหลาย
a large variety of products
a larger variety of products

player - one of the companies competing in an industry or market
a stronger player with a larger variety of products.

Although other countries like Vietnam also make silk, Thailand is a stronger player with a larger variety of products.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Jon Fernquest
Position: Online Writer