Thursday, 16 May 2013

Problems in mushroom farming

Despite all the favourable conditions, mushroom farming is not spreading fast. There are certain inherent problems or bottlenecks which hamper fast spread of mushroom farming in India.The present study was conducted in order to find out these problems and to suggest remedial measures thereby predicting the future of mushroom farming in India.

Monetary gain is the prime factor for the growth of any Profession. Mushroom farming is a highly remunerative enterprise with quick return in very short period. Studies have shown that this activity can be placed at third place just after crop and animal husbandry, as far as monetary gains are concerned. Hence, several ICAR institutes, CSIR institutes, State Department of Horticulture & Agril., Agricultural and general Universities and various reputed N.G.Os are working on various aspects of mushroom cultivation and its adoption.
Nevertheless, India’s annual mushroom production is still negligible as compared to world production. Presently, about 70,000 tonnes of fresh mushroom is being produced in India as against over 5 million tonnes world production of mushroom annually. Inspite of four decades of planned efforts, the pace of mushroom cultivation is slow in our country, while countries like Korea, China and Indonesia are now much ahead of India. Apart from technical know -how, the climate for cultivation of various kinds of mushrooms is also conducive and the raw material (agro-waste) required for their substrate preparation (compost) are available in plenty in rural India.
The present study was undertaken with the following objectives:
1. To find out the problems/constraints in rapid spread of mushroom farming.
2. To suggest ways for tackling the problems
3. To ensure rapid spread of mushroom cultivation.
To know the problems encountered by prospective entrepreneurs in fast adoption of mushroom cultivation, structured interview schedule and questionnaires were prepared. The mushroom growers were interviewed with the help of these schedules. The participants of Kisan Goshthis from States like Himachal Pradesh ,Punjab, Haryana were also contacted through the questionnaire structured for this purpose during Mushroom Melas. Likewise, the participants of a meet on “Possibilities & Means for Increasing
* Senior Scientist (Agril. Extension), National Research Centre for Mushroom Chambaghat, Solan (HP)
**Principal Scientist, National Research Centre for Mushroom, Chambaghat, Solan (HP)
Mushroom Production in Future” held at Solan were also exposed to structured questionnaire. The outcome of all the interview schedules & questionnaires were studied and the major problems were identified as under.
All though, the study indicated that the nature of problems varies with the extent and type of mushroom growing yet the general problems being faced by mushroom growers and farmers could be listed as the following:
A) Problems of large mushroom growers
The problems of large mushroom growers are different from the small, marginal, seasonal growers/farmers.
The major problems of large mushroom growers are as under.
i) Lack of good quality spawn
The yield of mushroom to a great extent depends upon quality of spawn. Good quality of spawn should be free from diseases with high yield potential. The non- availability of quality spawn is a common problem of large mushroom growers. They change source of spawn every year in the search of quality spawn. Generally, the private spawn producers who are not equipped with the knowledge & facility for mushroom breeding are selling the spawn falsely claiming that they have developed new high yielding strains. Infect, the spawn producers procure the mother culture of mushroom from Govt. organisation or prepare the culture by selecting a healthy mushroom and using it for making commercial spawn of mushroom with their own brand name. Sometimes, mushroom growers get immature spawn which results indelayed spawn run. Tripathi and Kaushik (2001) reported that this problem was encountered by 40 % mushroom growers in Haryana.
ii) Uncontrolled price structure of mushroom
When there is a glut in the market, the price of mushroom falls down to Rs. 20-30/kg but as the demand increases or shortage of mushrooms in the market the prices rise upto Rs. 60-70/kg . Thus there is always an uncertainty in market price of mushroom which reduces the amount of net profit and discourages the mushroom growers. This problem gets aggravated during peak production months, also because there is no minimum support price from the Govt. even in states with good number of mushroom farmers. Paul et al. (2001) and Tripathi and Kaushik (2001) have reported similar types of marketing problems upto a greater extent in their studies .
iii) Lack of common facility for pre-cooling and storage of fresh mushroom
This is also an severe problem being experienced by large mushroom growers. During the peak production period, growers are unable to dispose off their fresh mushroom on the same day and they are forced to keep it for the next day. In such a situation, the quality of fresh mushroom deteriorates and it also loses weight as it is a highly perisable commodity which can only be stored for about 12 hrs at room temperature and 2-3 days at 5?C. In order to combat this problem, mushroom growers require a common facility of cold room where they can store their produce for 2 to 3 days and also a pre-cooling unit for increasing the keeping quality of mushroom. Presently this kind of facility is not available for storing mushroom, even in areas where small mushroom growers are clustered in large numbers. Paul et al. (2001) ranked this problem at first place with an extent of 93 % among the other input –supply constraints.
iv) High transportation charges
Although, agro and animal wastes are available in plenty in India but they availability are not evenly distributed. Due to diversified climate and topography of land, different kinds of crops are raised in different parts of the country. For instance, wheat and paddy straw is easily available at cheaper rates in the plains of north India while the same is a scarce commodity in the hilly regions. Since mushroom cultivation is based on agro-waste, the raw materials required for its cultivation are usually transported from plains to hills in huge quantity and mushroom growers have to pay heavy transportation charges resulting in avoidable increase in cost of production and reduction in net profit.
v) Commercial rate of electricity tariff
Similarly, both small and big mushroom growers have to pay electricity charges at commercial rate, although mushroom farming is an agricultural activity. Many times it has been highlighted by the concerned scientific community during scientific gatherings, seminars, meetings, etc. This has led to high cost of production due to increased capital as well as recurring expenditure on mushroom farming.
vi) Lack of marketing facilities
When a large quantity of mushrooms are harvested per day at large mushroom farms, then its marketing becomes a major problem. Mushroom grower can not dispose off large quantity of mushroom more than the daily demand in the local market and in near by cities. In such a situation, he has to dispose off the remaining quantity of mushroom either at a distress-price or he has to transport it to different places where demand of mushroom is high. But the problem is of delivering the fresh mushroom from producing area to non-producing area beyond a distance of 300-400km, since mushroom is a perishable vegetable and can’t be stored at room temperature for more than 12 hours. It is only possible when it is transported in refrigerated vans which is currently not available. As a result the mushroom deteriorate in quality and quantity and the grower is made to incur heavy losses. Singh et al. (2004), Tripathi and Kaushik(2001), and Suharban et al. (1991) have also reported similar problem.
[hidepost] B) Problems pertaining to Small & marginal mushroom growers and beginners.
Problems of small & marginal mushroom growers are much different from those of large mushroom growers. The small & marginal mushroom growers are generally seasonal growers, taking only 1 to 2 crops of mushroom in a year under natural conditions. Hence the nature of problems of these growers is different than the large mushroom growers. The major problems pertaining to small & marginal mushroom growers and farmers who want to start mushroom farming at a moderate scale are as follows.
i) Lack of availability of quality spawn and compost
Mushroom cultivation is a complex process which demands technical expertise specially for spawn and compost production and is a costly affair. The small & marginal farmers are generally uneducated & economically poor. The production of spawn and compost is a difficult technical job for them which also require heavy investments. They can only raise a mushroom crop by procuring the requisite inputs – spawn & compost from various other sources.
Spawn is not easily available and it is being produced by very few Govt. departments and private producers. The mushroom growers have to travel 300-500km to procure it. Thus, spawn is usually procured by mushroom growers with great difficulties ( Suharban et al, 1991) Similarly, the seasonal mushroom growers & newly trained farmers try to avoid the complex process of compost preparation due to fear of failure and lack of finance. As an alternative to this they generally procure readymade compost. In Himachal Pradesh this kind of facility is available. But in other parts of the country getting readymade compost is a major problem.
Thus, non-availability of compost thwarts the farmers attempt to take up to mushroom farming in the beginning itself.On the other hand, seasonal mushroom growers in Himachal Pradesh are facing the problem of timely supply of quality compost. The suppliers are unable to meet their demand of quality compost in time which many a times leads to crop failure and discourages the seasonal mushroom growers. Thus the non-availability of requisite inputs – spawn and compost is an impediment in fast spread of mushroom cultivation. Paul et al. (2001) reported these two input- supply constraints as major impediments in mushroom cultivation.
ii) Complex process of obtaining loan/finance
Mushroom cultivation demands heavy investment in the initial stages. The small & marginal seasonal mushroom growers who want to expand their temporary mushroom farms and those farmers who want to start afresh are usually unable to invest the required amount of money from his own pocket. Therefore, they approach the financial organisation to obtain loan for this purpose. But the formalities of financial organisation are so complex that the seasonal mushroom growers & farmers can not get the finance easily. For instance, a person who has no property in his name to offer to the financial organisation as security is not eligible for loan. Even short term loans can not be sanctioned without security. This is a practical problem raised so many times during Kisan Goshthis/ Meets/Kisan Melas, but of no avail. Paul et al.
( 2001) reported this problem as second most important among the other financial constraints. Suharban et al. (1991) have also pointed out this problem in their study.
iii) Lack of low cost mushroom farm design
A scientifically designed mushroom farm needs heavy investment and hence is out of reach of small & marginal mushroom growers/farmers. Therefore, there should be a low cost mushroom farm design available, based on locally available material and as per local climatic conditions.
The seasonal mushroom growers in plains particularly in Haryana are growing mushroom in thatched mud houses, in which maintaining the required temperature & humidity for mushroom cultivation is very difficult. These kind of structures need refinement by scientific community to develop an appropriate low cost farm design.
iv) Lack of training facilities
Training is an essential component for successful adoption of the technology of mushroom farming. Except Himachal Pradesh where adequate number of training centres are located, other States are lacking in this facility. Few State Agriculture Universities are providing only preliminary guidance on mushroom farming to limited number of farmers. Hence this is a major problem which discourages the farmers to take up the cultivation of this non-traditional crop. This finding is in agreement with that of Paul et al. (2001) and Tripathi and Kaushik (2001).
v) Inadequate testing and diagnostic facilities
Besides technical expertise, mushroom cultivation also demands hygienic conditions in its surroundings. To maintain hygienic conditions in the village situation, is very difficult and thus chances of occurrence of pests and diseases are much more which sometimes damages mushroom crop to a great extent. The extent of losses can be reduced if the causes of loss is diagnosed in time and remedial measures are taken urgently. However, there are very few research organisations where quality parameter testing and pest and diseases diagnostic facilities are existing. These facilities are inadequate even in the mushroom growing State like Himachal Pradesh while in other states these facilities are entirely lacking. Finally, when mushroom growers need guidance, they approach nearby Agriculture Universities/ State Deptt. of Hort./State Deptt. of Agril, but they often return without proper solution as these institutions/deptt. lack expertise for testing the quality parameters as well as diagnosis and control measures of pests and diseases.
For fast adoption of mushroom farming among the urban & rural masses these problems should be tackled in the following ways.
1) As the spawn production process is purely a scientific, complex & laboratory based activity hence, the S.A.Us can make best use of already established laboratories to produce and distribute spawn in its locality. The universities are already producing & providing seeds of cereals, vegetables and fruits to the farmer of their locality. Thus mushroom seed (spawn) can also be included in their existing system.
2) The guidelines should be framed to ensure the supply of quality spawn and a quality controlling authority should also be decided to have a check over the private spawn producers under those quality parameters.
3) The States with heavy production of mushroom in winter season should at least
declare a support price for mushroom so that its price could be stabilized.
The mushroom growers should form cooperative societies at district or divisional level to control the supply & thereby the prices of mushroom. Such initiative has already been taken at Solan and proved very effective.
4) The financial institutions should make their loan sanctioning system flexible to suit the marginal & small farmers. These orgnisations and N.G.Os should also work to motivate farming community to form “self help groups” which will act as local body to assist financing organisation as well as farming community to obtain & repay the loans in time.
5) The R&D organisations should develop low cost mushroom farm design by refinement of the indigenous structure now being used by the mushroom growers.
6) Training on mushroom cultivation is a pre-requisite to start mushroom cultivation. Hence State Department of Horticulture should organize at least one training programme every year at the district level with the help of trained S.M.S. The Krishi Vigyan Kendras should also conduct training on mushroom cultivation for farmers in collaboration with the nodal mushroom R&D organisation. However, before conducting the training programme they must ensure that facilities for conducting practicals are adequate, and their SMS themselves are trained and are aware of the recent advances in the subject.
7) Even after receiving the training, the farmer is not so confident that he could prepare compost himself. In this situation, he will always prefer to buy ready made compost. The State Department of Horticulture can fulfil this requirement by setting up a mother composting unit at district or divisional level on no-profit-no loss basis, which will also provide an opportunity to the trainees to learn through work experience.
8) In the mushroom growing belt of the State, a common facility for pre-cooling and storage of fresh mushroom may be created. For this purpose, entrepreneurs can be motivated to utilize Governments schemes, or government institutions / SAUs dealing with mushroom can also develop such facility. The entrepreneurs and govt. institution can provide this facility to mushroom growers on payment basis. This option is very much possible as this facility is existing in case of potato and peas.
9) In the areas where raw materials are not available and transportation charges are very high subsidy on transport should be provided to mushroom growers.
10) A notification should be issued to all the Govt. Institutions/ Dept. & financial institutions to consider the mushroom growing as an agricultural activity so that mushroom growers could avail the facilities being provided in the agriculture sector such as electrical tariff on agricultural rate, crop loans etc.
11) Existing agriculture department’s and SAU’s laboratories should be equipped with testing and diagnostic facilities for quality parameters and diagnosis of pest diseases at district and block level. The staff involved should also be trained in this field.
12) There is a need to provide insurance cover for mushroom farming to safeguard against the losses caused by severe pest and disease epidemics, as has recently been introduced for other crops.
13) Common refrigerated transport facilities should be developed specially for mushrooms by the departments linked with marketing of flowers, fruits and vegetables on payment basis.
These suggestions will certainly help in diffusing the mushroom cultivation at a faster rate among urban & rural masses if the Govt. organisations take care of them. Since the Govt. organisations have their well established network, they can exploit the system for encouraging mushroom farming, as an income generating activity among the rural/urban masses to alleviate the poverty at the grass-root level.
Prospects of Mushroom Cultivation
India has several benefits over other mushroom growing countries as far as mushroom cultivation is concerned. Being an agricultural country, a variety of raw materials are available in India. The climate is also diverse and congenial for cultivation of various kinds of mushrooms. The labour, a major component in determining the cost of cultivation in the European countries is very cheap in India. The European countries spend around 50% of the total cost of production on labour while in India, the figure is around 10-15 percent.
Indian import and export scenario is changing rapidly, with export figures increasing constantly, except some sudden impact of recession in the world-market.
There is a wide gap between demand and supply of mushroom within the country as well as at international level. The availability of mushroom in domestic market is very much limited and low particularly in the plains during winter season and almost nil in the other seasons.
In view of above facts, mushroom farming in our country may flourish like mushroom growth in the coming years if the problems identified and attended urgently and remedial measures are undertaken at the earliest. The process has already begun and gained momentum during the last decade. The rural and urban masses are showing much interest in mushroom cultivation and eager to adopt it as an occupation. The States having tropical climate are also coming forward for growing other kinds of mushroom. The business community has also shown inclination towards mushroom farming and, in some of the cases poultry farms and cold-storages etc are being converted in to mushroom farms.
The prospects of mushroom farming will be much more brighter in the coming decades, if the interest of people is sustained and the problems being faced by established mushroom growers are addressed in the ways suggested here.