Got silk?

Silk price soars as China’s farmland shrinks
The price of silk cocoons, the raw material for the fabric used in expensive items of clothing, has doubled since the start of 2009 to Rmb92,700 ($13,570) a tonne in mid-April, according to the China Cocoon and Silk Exchange.

...The urbanisation of the key silk-producing region around Shanghai has reduced the land available for mulberry trees, whose leaves are the only thing silk worms eat.

“It’s as if you had a very large city in Champagne on the soil of the famous wine,” Mr Morel Journel bemoaned.

Chinese output fell 15 per cent to 84,000 tonnes last year, according to the International Sericultural Commission, and a drought that began in late 2009 has further reduced production. China accounts for 70 per cent of global silk production.

The rally coincides with a surge in the cost of other natural fibres: coarse wool, used for carpets, has soared to the highest level since 1980, while cotton is near a 14-year high. Silk accounts for a small part of the final price of fine clothing.

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