Brazil, known for its lush rainforests, vibrant culture, and diverse landscapes, also boasts a lesser-known but equally charming treasure: silk production. While countries like China and India have long been linked to silk, the Brazilian silk industry is quietly being recognized for its unique combination of tradition, innovation, and sustainability.
In 2020, Brazilian farmers produced 377 tons of silk. The performance places the country as the sixth-largest producer in the world, according to the latest data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Brazil is behind China, India, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Thailand; and just ahead of Korea, Iran, and Tajikistan.
Unlike fabrics such as cotton, silk does not come from a plant and its production depends on an insect. The most usual silkworm is a moth known scientifically as “Bombyx mori.” Silk is made of a protein fiber that this insect produces to build its cocoon when it is still young, as a caterpillar. The insect’s life cycle takes up to 70 days, going through stages such as egg, caterpillar, cocoon, and moth. After emerging from the cocoon, each female can lay 500 eggs.
The specialized farmers feed the larvae with mulberry leaves, which stimulate growth until the caterpillars can weave their cocoons. These threads are sent to factories to be heated, then sent to a spinning machine to become the luxurious fabric we know worldwide.
Silk is a very traditional product, with more than 5 thousand years of history that began in China. As it spread across the world, it also arrived in Brazil with a unique aspect: longer and whiter threads. While in China the thread reaches 600 meters, in Brazil it reaches 1.2 thousand meters. This allows for fewer breaks in the yarn for production and simplifies the dyeing process.
Today, Brazilian silk production is centralized in three states, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). Paraná, in the south of the country, accounts for 83.3% of production, followed by São Paulo, in the southeast, with 12%. The third place goes to Mato Grosso do Sul, in the Midwest, with 4.7%.
In Paraná, silk is produced in a region known as the Silk Valley, which includes 29 cities in the state’s northwest. In all, 2.7 thousand Brazilian families in 221 cities are involved in silk production. The final product is exported to several countries, including France, Italy, Japan, India, and China.