New Delhi: The famous Banarasi and Pochampalli silk industry in the country is in no danger of closure and there have been no instances of sericulture farmers committing suicide due to a decline in cocoon prices in the last three years, Parliament was informed on Monday.

In an oral reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, Textiles Minister Anand Sharma clarified there was no danger to the traditional silk industries of the country.

In a separate written reply to a question in the Lower House on whether sericulture farmers were committing suicide due to the decline in prices of cocoons, particularly in Karnataka, during the last three years, Minister of State for Textiles Panabaaka Lakshmi stated, "No such incident has come to notice."

"However, the handloom sector is facing competition from the powerloom and mill sectors due to the inherent disadvantage of low productivity and the high labour component of handlooms," Sharma stated in his reply.

Outlining the steps taken by the government for development of the handloom sector, Sharma said the import duty on raw silk yarn has been reduced from 30 percent to 5 percent in order to bring down the prices of different types of silk yarn in the country.

However, to protect the domestic silk industry at the same time, "The reference price (benchmark) for anti-dumping duty on imported Chinese silk fabric -- crepe, georgette and others -- has been increased with effect from December 5, 2011... This measure will prevent dumping of cheap Chinese silk fabric," Sharma said.

Other steps include the implementation of a Rs 3,884 crore financial package for waiver of the overdue loans of 3 lakh handloom weavers and 15,000 cooperative societies and registration of Banarasi and Pochampalli silk as Geographical Indications (GI) items to prevent unauthorised reproduction of the famed fabric.

Furthermore, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs is considering a Rs 2,362.15 crore Comprehensive Package to address the critical requirement for institutional credit and availability of yarn at reasonable rates of the handloom sector in the ongoing 2011-12 financial year and into the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17), he said.

Over-and-above these special packages, the government is implementing five schemes for the handloom sector – namely the Integrated Handloom Development Scheme, Marketing and Export Promotion Scheme, Handloom Weavers Comprehensive Welfare Scheme, Mill Gate Price Scheme and Diversified Handloom Development Scheme -- besides a Comprehensive Handloom Cluster Development Scheme. In her reply, Lakshmi said the silk industry has achieved a steady increase in the production of raw silk.

"For 2011-12, raw silk production is expected to be 23,230 tonnes, compared to 20,410 tonnes in 2010-11," she said.

On export earnings, she said, silk goods worth Rs 2,863.7 crore are expected to be exported in 2010-11. "For April-August, 2011, exports are anticipated to be Rs 962 crore," she added.