Uganda cleared for commercial silk production

KAMPALA — Uganda is now ready to begin commercial silk yarn production, results from samples sent to Europe for grade testing, have indicated.

Uganda under the Tropical Institute of Development Innovations (TRIDI) last year sent its first samples of silk yarn for testing in the European market branded “Usilk”. Test results received by TRIDI have shown that Uganda’s yarn silk are within the commercial grades.

“Uganda is now ready to begin commercial silk yarn production. Results of our silk yarn that was sent to Europe for grade testing have been released and we are within the commercial grades,” Mr. Clet Wandui Masiga, the Executive Director and Sericulture Project Principal Investigator at TRIDI told reporters on Wednesday afternoon.

Silk quality standards are ranked according to the uniformity of yarn, minimal impurities, minimal fluff, tensile strength and elongation.

“Our Usilk count/denier size was 25.2D which was excellent considering the specifications used in the production was 19-33 denier. We had high cuts per kg of silk yarn and more impurities. When we received the results we immediately gathered our technical teams to do a quick evaluation,” Mr. Wandui added.

He said that whereas Uganda sought to achieve specifications for Grade 6A which is the best quality silk globally to begin commercial production, Usilk did not make it to the higher grade.

Mr. Wadui told reporters that there’s room for improvement.

“The Silk engineers and investors and entrepreneurs from Europe where the test was done are coming to Uganda next month to visit Uganda factory, so they can see cocoon quality, machine and production environment,” he announced.

He said these would provide suggestions to help improve the quality to produce Grade 6A silk yarn.

“We did the research and we are convinced that our mulberry production is the best globally. Our research also demonstrates that the rearing conditions are also the best. We are also using the best or latest next generation processing equipment and as such we expected Grade 6A. We decided that we shall build our own capacity by training young engineers to produce the yarn and they have done it first time. Am proud of this team of Ugandans and I congratulate them and request them to remain committed and focused. We are producing a product that has a market and we shall get revenue for our own livelihoods and for socio-economic development of Uganda”.

Uganda silk yarn branded Usilk is 100% Ugandan and is produced by Tropical Institute of Development Innovations (TRIDI). It is funded by government of Uganda. The raw silk which Uganda is currently producing is divided into 11 grades, from 6A, 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A, A, B, C, D, E, to F.

On why Usilik didn’t reach the top targeted levels, Mr. Wadui said the cocoons used had over stayed resulting in more cuts.

“The water used was both dirty and hard water. The hardness of water affects essentially the surface characteristics of the raw silk colour, luster softness etc. Silk reeled in hard water poses difficulty in dyeing since a greater quantity of soap is to be used for degumming. Rain water is not considered suitable for reeling” he added.

“Some of the cocoons used was produced using mulberry that had not been managed well due to several management challenges experienced between June 2021- to December 2022. Cocoon harvest and storage was not excellent resulting into molds or stains. These stains affect the final result. The processing factory is not completed well and needs a facelift which will improve the production environment
At present the walls are not plastered and there is a lot of dust that enters the production facility.”.

He said TIRDI would immediately embark on addressing the challenges listed.

“The quality begins from the garden. To get the best quality brand, the formula begins from the garden followed by the best breeds of silkworm, then best rearing conditions, cocoon handling and processing”.

He said that once the much sought-after grade A production skills are perfected, Uganda would earn upto UGX 43.2B annually.

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