Preliminary studies by the ACP Business Climate Facility (BizClim)—a firm which provides technical assistance for improving the business climate in Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean, has revealed that Rwanda is well suited for the production of silk.
Luigi Bertorelli, the ACP BizClim Team Leader said that there is more potential in silk production unlike cotton and other natural fabrics, which lack domestic source of raw materials.
The research findings were last week presented during a workshop organised by BizClim and Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to identify gaps and opportunities in the Rwandan textile industry.
Presenting the findings, Bertorelli said that Rwanda has in the recent past tried to reduce this competitive disadvantage by producing cotton domestically.
“But it has emerged that environmental conditions are not conducive to the production of competing quality cotton,” he said.
Bertorelli explained that climatic conditions for mulberry cultivation and ideal weather for silkworm rearing make it possible for raw materials to be available throughout the year.
“There is also a large supply of inexpensive labour.”
According to the research findings, once Rwanda starts producing silk fabric, African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) can stimulate market penetration and export discoveries.
Rwanda’s potential to produce silk was also highlighted in a cluster study on silk and textile by “The On The Frontier (OTF)” group, an American competitive consultant firm.
The OTF study indicated that Rwanda has the potential to earn substantial revenues from value addition in sericulture. Sericulture is the rearing of silkworms for the production of raw silk.
While presenting the findings, James Foster, a consultant with OTF Group said that fabric production would provide the highest revenue potential for Rwanda in the long term.
“Silk requires significantly higher investments than coffee or tea, but appears to be much more profitable for farmers. Farmers can earn up much more from silk cocoons than from coffee and tea.”
The OTF recommended that more investments in silk worm rearing facilities be made to increase cocoon production, which currently fetches about $19,000 (Rwf10.8 million) per annum from four provinces.
Leonard Mungarulire, who is also a consultant with OTF Group, said that most banks do not know the potential in silk yet the industry needs massive investments.
“However, the Rwanda Development Bank (BRD) has come on board and hopefully other banks will.”
The size of the country’s textile industry is particularly small. L’Usine Textile du Rwanda (Utexrwa) is the only key player in the industry, mainly producing cotton fabric.
This year the industry started production of silk for the local market.