SHIMLA: The Himachal Pradesh government has launched a Rs 8.5 crore community-based structured breeding programme for the genetic improvement of indigenous sheep and to double the production of wool, Animal Husbandry Minister Virender Kanwar said on Sunday.
The state government has imported 240 Merino sheep, 40 males and 200 females, with an outlay of Rs 6 crore under the National Livestock Mission (NLM) so that superior exotic germplasm could be infused to achieve the target of 3,000 tons quality wool production by next five years.
The state has recorded wool production of around 1,482 tons in 2020-21. Chamba is the top wool producing district with annual production of around 425 tons, followed by Kullu and Shimla, which recorded 249 tons and 196 tons, respectively.
The average wool production in the state is about 1,599 grams per sheep every year.
State-run State Cooperative Wool Procurement and Marketing Federation Ltd (Woolfed) has a modernised plant for wool scouring in Banuri in Palampur where around 11,500 kg wool was processed in 2020-2021, said Kanwar.
The state has two popular breeds of sheep -- the Rampur Bushairi and Gaddi -- popular for producing high-quality carpet wool.
The Rampur Bushairi breed is reared in Shimla district, while Gaddi is reared in Chamba, Kangra, Kullu, Shimla, Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti districts.
The state has 7,91,345 sheep that produce coarse carpet quality wool.
The minister said the breeding programme would help improve the wool quality. Also wool of 21-22 microns, suitable for apparel production, would be produced. It will be on a par with world's premium quality fabrics produced in Australia and New Zealand.
Himachal Pradesh is the sixth largest producer of wool in the country, contributing four per cent to the country's total wool production.
The Merino sheep, a Spanish breed prized for its soft, fine, and lustrous fiber, is being reared at government breeding farms in Nagwain in Mandi district where facilities have been strengthened with a cost of Rs 2 crore to meet requirements of the imported livestock.
The sheep have well acclimated to the climate of the state and have produced 800 healthy lambs through artificial insemination.
ICAR-Central Sheep & Wool Research Institute has set up a wool testing laboratory in Kullu to confirm its quality and for facilitating wool producers, added Kanwar.