Craving for silk this Puja,2011? Be prepared to burn your fingers

Writer :Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey | TNN 
Source : Times of India, Kolkata.

Kolkata : If you had been saving up to buy your favourite silks this Puja, you may have to cut corners. Handloom silk sarees and dress materials have become prohibitively expensive this year, threatening to take the sheen off Puja shopping.
    Both government emporia and private traders complain that sale of silk that peaks at this time of the year (with Puja and the wedding season following), have dipped by at least 25% and the market is unlikely to pick up now.
    In case of the more expensive silk — like Muga, Benarasi and Kanjeevaram — prices have shot up by almost 100%. Other traditional handloom silk favourites, like Ikkat, Bomkai and Tussars are expensive by 25-50%. Most government emporia are extending rebates to customers as is the tradition this season, but it is
not enough to entice customers.
    Sambalpuri, the best selling silk from Orissa, has a price tag of a minimum 5,000 this year — a clean 1,500 more than six months ago. Khandua silk, also from Orissa, is selling at 3,500 on average in Orissa government emporia. Even six months back, it cost about 2000. “Bomkais and Sambalpuris are expensive. Those who buy silk as gifts generally prefer Khandua, but this year they are not able to afford even that,” said Sarbeshwar Mishra, area manager of Boyanika, the Orissa government emporium in Kolkata.
    While the cost of silk yarn has suddenly gone up, handloom weavers are also demanding much higher wages, say both emporia and private traders, leading to a sharp hike in prices.
    “Till last year, we paid 250 a day to weavers. Now, they demand nothing less than 400. Our weavers are being hijacked
by countries like China, Malaysia and Thailand where silk is woven on powerlooms. There they are getting at least five to six times the wages,” said S K Pujari, regional manager of Purbashree, the government emporia that stocks all handloom from north-eastern states. 

    Silk from Assam, especially the expensive Muga, is among the worst hit. “Till last year we were able to sell a range of Muga starting from 8000- 10,000, but this year it has gone up to 12,000-16,000,” said Pujari.
    Lepakshi, the Andhra emporium, a favourite with Puja shoppers, has also been hit. “Our yarn cost has gone up by 50%, while labourers are not willing to work below 450 a day. Naturally, the finished silk will be hit. We used to sell a Narayanpet saree till six months back at 1,900, today it has gone up to 2,800. We can’t help it,” said K Rihini, branch manager.