Kashmir Pashmina facing threat from
Chinese machine-made shawls
The 12 year militancy in the Kashmir Valley has taken a huge toll on the production of
hand-made exquisite pashmina shawls given that Chinese machine-made yarn and shawls
have been swarming the hometurf, so much so that many Indian artisans today are
finding it difficult to make two ends meet.
In light of this, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry had recently convened a
meeting wherein a consensus was arrived that it should pressurize the government to
enact a law forbidding the sale of Chinese products.
Abdul Hamid Punjabi, Vice President, KCC&I, informed that ancient craft has been
providing employment opportunities to numerous artisans residing in various quarters of
the Kashmir Valley. With the Chinese and Punjab yarn flooding the valley, some 30,000
to 40,000 women have lost sole source of income.
Previously, the Shawls Makers Association had spoken to Minister for Industries and
Commerce, to enforce a law, to check the production of machine-made embroidered
shawls and stoles, within Kashmir.
The chamber focused on creating general awareness amongst the traders to impress upon
the government to structure a law, prohibiting the production of such crafts on machines.
The meeting informed the traders producing and selling the machine made shawls and
stoles should be sensitive enough to the needs of poor artisans besides the limiting the
sale of machine made shawls and stoles in the name of Kashmiri products in local and
The meeting also brought to light the fact that some corrupt traders are also outsourcing
the embroidery work to workers outside the state and thereby putting in danger the age-
old craft of Kashmir.
For the records, an assortment of duplicates from Nepal, China and our from
powerlooms in Punjab are being passed off as Pashmina’s from Kashmir.
With Pashmina being produced in large scale, prices of the shawls have dropped like
never before. In 1985-86, pashmina shawls were priced between Rs.5,500 and Rs.6,000.
Going by that, today the prices they should have been priced somewhere around
Rs.12,000 and Rs.15,000 keeping the inflation factor on mind, rather it is down to Rs
4,500 to Rs 5,000. According to a dealer in Pashmina’s shawls earlier the shawls were
sold for $200 a piece in London, while today the impure product is being sold in flea
markets of Europe for a paltry sum of $15 to $20.
The other unbelievable fact that could lead to the further downfall of the industry being
that Indian Pashmina has no patent. It seems that neither anyone in the valley nor the
higher-ups in Delhi know the importance of a patent. So bogus shawls today are
marketed abroad as Cashmere or Pashmina. Most buyers don’t really get into the details
and easily taken in by the brand names. Now probably it is too late to save the brand and
in all probability will go the Basmati, neem and haldi way.
Some information on where Pashmina wool is extracted from :
The Chandra goat from where the Pashmina wool is removed is found at a height of
14,000 feet in Ladakh. It is also reared in government farms in Kargil. The goats are
found in an array of colors from cream and white to brown and beige. The most
interesting aspect being the goat is neither sheared nor wool cut. A special comb is
employed to extract hair. Thereafter it is bundled and brought to the valley where the
coarse hair and dust is removed and then processing for yarn begins. For that matter, even
for cleaning the wool or hair the machines are not used given that it would shorten the
length of the fibre and make it unsuitable for spinning yarn.
The Chinese get their wools from Mongolia, Tibet or from their goat farms. However,
they’ve mechanized the entire process. A lot of Chinese yarn arrives in Punjab where it is
woven in mechanized looms, but what bothers the Kashmiri’s is that shawls produced are
However, under the recently announced package for Jammu and Kashmir, the
Development Commissioner for handicrafts at the Centre is trying to bring some order
into the entire process of pashmina shawl production.