The 19th Century is characterised by two contradictory trends: increased mechanisation and the consequent increase in productivity in the silk industry, on the one hand, and on the other, the beginning of the decline of European sericulture in the last quarter of the century. From 1872, and the opening of the Suez Canal, raw silk imported from Japan became more competitive, thanks also to Japan's progress in reeling techniques. The rapid industrialisation of European silk-producing countries, notably France, led to transfer of agricultural labour to the cities and towns. Diseases that affected the silkworm, although overcome by Pasteur, made silk-rearing a less reliable source of income. And the first man-made fibres were beginning to make inroads into the markets traditionally reserved for silk.