The country’s sole textile company, L’Usine Textile du Rwanda (Utexrwa) is targeting Canada as a niche market for some of its silk products.
The company’s Managing Director, Raj Rajendran said that they have received inquiries from the North American country about Utexrwa’s possibility of supplying night garments.
“We will be shipping out trial orders and we will know their response thereafter,” he added.
The developments, if they materialise, will be a boost to Utexrwa, which boasts of $0.5 million (Rwf284.2 million) revenues this year from textile exports to the US market through the Africa Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) initiative.
Rajendran also said that the industry is concentrating on final products as its market driven strategy despite the low cocoon production. Silk cocoon is a spin produced by a silkworm after eating up mulberry leaves.
It is estimated that the current production of 1.3 tonnes of silk cocoons cannot sustain the factory’s capacity per month. Utexrwa needs 7.5 tonnes of silk cocoons per month.
The low cocoon supply brought about the suspension of silk production. The company rather opted for silk yarn exportation in order to cushion against anticipated losses. Utexrwa ventured into silk production last year with an initial investment of $900,000 (Rwf511.8 million).
In order to attract massive production of silk cocoons, Utexrwa increased the prices of silk spins per kg by half a dollar.
A Kilogramme of silk cocoons in the first grade (dried and sorted) increased from Rwf3,000 to Rwf3,300. Prices for the third and last grade have also increased from Rwf700 to Rwf950.
However, the move has also failed to draw massive supplies of silk cocoon. Information from the country’s sole textile factory shows that only 60 Kgs of cocoon have been supplied since.
A recent research by the On-The-Frontier (OTF) Group indicated that sericulture has massive potential over coffee and tea in terms of revenues.
The country has already been proven suitable for silk production because of the fertile soils, favourable climate and cheap labour. Last year alone, cocoon production generated about $19,000 (Rwf10.8 million) from 283 hectares.
Silk is one of the crops expected to diversify the country’s exports. OTF Group says that Rwanda should seek for the rapid growth of Morocco’s silk cluster, which has grown from $14 million too $35 million over the last five years.
“A farmer can earn about Rwf1.5 million per year from silk cocoon per hectare.”