THE country possesses the best breed of sheep that provide not only meat and milk but also produce quality wool. There are about 26.5 million heads of sheep with 17 different breeds, both with fat and thin tails which are increasing at a rate of about five to six per cent per annum producing more than 42,000 million tons of wool.
Ecologically, the country has a vast arid zone with food and water shortage. Sheep is resistant to drought and can survive without sweat water and thrive on brackish water eating dried roots and leaves. Sheep of these areas produce coarse wool, which is suitable for making carpet. This wool is also called ‘carpet wool’.
The desert areas of Mithi and Umerkot districts are similar to the Long Reach area of Australia which is famous for producing good quality wool. But there is a lot of difference between sheep farmers of Australia and Tharparkar. A farmer having a flock of about 3000-4000 sheep in the Long Reach area is a rich person where as a farmer with the same number of flock in Tharparkar is not so rich. This is because of lack of technology, planning for production of quality wool and absence of processing facility.
At present farmers are not paying any attention towards the quantity and quality of wool per sheep as the raw wool does not sell at attractive prices..
For producing large quantity and better quality wool, the animal should be well managed, bigger in size, healthy and free of disease and parasites. Before the animal is shorn off, it should be dipped and dried properly for control of external parasites. Shearing should be done twice a year at least 15 days before the start of winter and summer i.e. in the last weak of October and April with manual or electric shearer. The wool obtained from the front and back part of the animal’s body should be separately stored in dry and airy place.
Tharparkar is an important area for production of wool. There is a flock of about 1.5 million sheep in the district which produces more than three million kg of wool annually. Wool and carpets are being exported earning a lot of foreign exchange for the country, but no efforts are being made to increase its production and improve its quality.
With a better plan production of wool can be increased and various other benefits obtained. To start with, the arid areas should be declared as ‘wool areas’ and wool should be treated as livestock crop. In such areas wool development and extension centres should be set up providing facilities for production of better quality wool in the area.
Disease and parasite control, feed supply, breeding facilities through high, pedigreed rams, training of farmers provision of dips and shearing machines both manual and electrical and credit facilities should be provided to sheep farmers through these centres. All such services should be provided free of charge and the credit facility should be provided on soft and easy terms.
Smaller breeding farms of 25-50 animals should be set up in the wool producing areas through credit facilities to interested persons and small farmers under one wool development and extension centre, and recovery should be made through sale of wool.
Only in Chhachro Taluka there are more than 6,000 handlooms for production of carpets, without any facility.
The farmers of the area are selling raw wool at Rs10 per kg to the processors. The processing of wool (cleaning and dying) is carried out far away as there is no processing unit in Tharparkar. The processed wool is purchased by loom owners of the area at a rate of about Rs200 per kg. As such the cost of inputs for carpet production goes up.
There is dire need for setting up of at least two medium-sized wool processing units, one each at Chhachro to cover the areas of Mithi, Umerkot, Mirpurkhas and Sanghar, and the other at Johi to cover Kachho, Kohistan and Nara areas.
A carpet industry should be set up either at Chhachro or at Johi to replace handlooms. This will help in manufacturing of larger number of carpets. Even processed wool can be produced at these units for export.
Thus by implementing the proposed plan, a wool development farm can be set up helping farmers to increase the flock of sheep by about 50 per cent and improving the quantity and quality of wool.
The plan will boost the carpet industry of the country and help in the production of better and durable carpets and earn more foreign exchange.