Sericulture activities have been in practice in Egypt since 18th century, albeit on a small scale for local consumption, it became a steady seasonal occupation for landless and low-income rural population. Mohamed Ali Pasha Ordered the planting of three million mulberry trees during the early 19th Century. Since then, sericulture activities faced several rises and drops according to the social and economical situation. The peak in growth of sericulture was reached in 1990, but although local raw silk production experienced some growth, it was far below the domestic demand. Import of raw silk rose from 120 tons a year in 1984 to 250 tons in 1991, while local production only increased from 2 to 4 tons during the same period. A total of 1000 families distributed over 40 villages of 10 Governorates were involved in silkworm rearing, with an average of 40200 workers in the silk industry.
SERICULTURE RESEARCH DEPARTMENT (SRD)
The organization for promoting and supporting sericulture in Egypt is the SRD which is a part of the Plant Protection Research Institute (PPRI) of the Agricultural Research Center (ARC). It has played a leading role to upgrade the traditional sericulture activities and to lay the basis for technical standards by establishing a recent technology for silkworm rearing and reeling. Research in sericulture is mainly focused on improving productivity of mulberry and cocoon yield and also on evolving improved mulberry varieties besides the breeding program and its responsibility in training and extension.
Traditional rearing which represents 90% of sericulture rearing depend on the huge trees located along the canals and road sides mostly in the Delta area, while the private investors depend on the mulberry fields for feeding the silkworms. The most common varieties reared in Egypt and also for sapling production are Morus alba var Kokuzo 27 (Japanese). M-5 and Morus alba var Morittiana (Indian), however, the local variety (Morus alba var. Rosa) is used for the traditional rearing. There are 54 mulberry varieties saved in the mulberry Gene Bank of the Sericulture Research Station in Egypt most of them being imported ones from other countries such as India, China, Bangladesh, Bulgaria and Japan.
2. SILKWORM BREEDING
Silkworm breeding program and egg production are carried out by SRD for producing a local hybrid of high productivity and resistant to diseases by using 3 silkworm lines which exist in the SRD.
3. SILKWORM REARING
In traditional rearing method, rearers grow the larvae from hatching till cocoon production in their living house at room temperature, while private sectors are adopting a cooperative young silkworm rearing and branch feeding in rearing houses for grown up larvae for mass production. The average crop of fresh cocoons obtained by one box (12 g) of silkworm eggs is comparatively low (16.8 kg) in traditional rearing and little more for modern sericulture (24 kg), the decrease mainly due to silkworm diseases such as flacherie and grasserie and inappropriate management. Cocoons are mainly dried under sun and dried cocoons are sorted manually as rearers do not have enough fund to access to advanced technologies. Therefore, the process of technology transfer is picking up very slow resulting in inconsistent cocoon quality and quantity. Sericulture Co-operative Societies have been established in different Governorates, some of them have started the co-operative rearing for their rearers. The SRD has designed different types of cheap rearing houses as models for rearing grown up larvae of modern sericulture. Continuous trials are conducted by SRD to promote the traditional rearing by way of introducing simple technologies such as room and bed disinfectants, nets and mountage frames to the traditional reares.
4. SILK REELING AND SPINNING
The domestic silk is commonly produced by using the manual reeling machines belonging to a few reelers in the Delta area (North of Egypt), with the capacity of 3 kg dry cocoons per one shift (8hrs.), reelers can work two shifts per day. 1kg of raw silk of 60-75 denier can be produced from 2.5 kg of dry cocoons. The production is consumed locally for manufacturing silk carpets as a warp yarn, while weft yarn are imported from China and also used for handlooms fabrics. Manual spinners are used for spinning the waste silk to spun silk with an unsatisfactory production rate (1 kg of spun silk produced from 4.3 kg of waste silk within one week). In the beginning of 1990s, multi-end reeling machine was introduced to the SRD and the private sector for improving the raw silk quality and to solve the cocoon marketing problem.
5. SILK PREPARATION AND COTTAGE INDUSTRY
After the raw silk is reeled and dried, it must be processed further so that it is ready for use in embroidery or in cloth and rug weaving. Post cocoon activities such as twisting, doubling and other activities of silk processing precede weaving. Several villages have been using hand looms for weaving carpets and sometimes wool/silk carpets are hand woven. These carpets are sold successfully at both local and international markets.