Analysis and Studies - Products analysis

Silk: import and export

The most beautiful and most expensive natural material is surely silk. Its biological roots are quite modest. An insect called a silkworm releases the silk to secure itself within a cocoon while it develops into a pupa and finally a butterfly.

While several other species can generate a useful thread, only the silkworm can make true silk. Unlike some other textiles, silk-wearing traditions and demand go back a long way. China has been raising silkworms since around 2640 B.C.E., and over the centuries it was able to create a monopoly on the manufacturing and sale of silk. The product reached Europe in commercial quantities many centuries later and was sold at high prices. Vast quantities of gold and silver flooded China from Europe and the Middle East in exchange for silk.  The significance of the silk trade led to the creation of the most important commercial route between the east and west, known as the Silk Road.

Silk is still widely used nowadays in textiles, industries, and medical fields. Being a natural product, it is considered to be more sustainable than synthetic fabric. However, there is still some debate over the ethics and sustainability of the production of silk. Indeed, there are alternatives, such as "cruelty-free silk," but it is a matter far from being over.



The total trade in silk is worth $1.27 billion and represents 0.0076% of world trade. As imagined, given its tradition and history, the biggest exporter of silk in 2020 was China, with a total export of $529 million. Followed by Italy ($186 million), Vietnam ($76.2 million), Uzbekistan ($75.8 million), and India ($67.1 million). The top importers in 2020 were Italy ($195 million), India ($121 million), France ($81.5 million), Romania ($77.1 million), and China ($76.8 million).


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