Time to put mushroom on every table: Scientist
After six decades of mushroom cultivation in the country, the first Indian Mushroom Growers Association (IMGA) was launched here recently.
On an average, India grows around 40,000 tonnes of mushroom annually. The country started growing mushrooms in 1952. A national mushroom industry interface was made possible by the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR), Bengaluru, in association with the Karnataka Department of Horticulture.
The meet brought together researchers, banking officials and nearly 300 farmers from across the country involved in the trade. The occasion also saw the launch of the IMGA website and newsletter. Food experts at the meet felt that the National Horticulture Mission, the Karnataka Council for Technological Upgradation, NABARD, and researchers should undertake the mission to bring about awareness on easy procedures in mushroom production.
“Indian farmers are so uninformed that most State governments and policymakers are yet to include mushroom as a crop in their food mission,” said Meera Pandey, principal scientist, Mushroom Research Laboratory, IIHR.
She told The Hindu , “Mushrooms are packed with vitamins and minerals. They are purifiers with qualities to absorb heavy metals and are anti-cancerous. But we have not undertaken an awareness drive among people and cultivators.”
Making mushroom available at every home, strategies to make the wholesome crop part of the daily diet, value addition needed for a longer shelf life, and increasing its usage were some of the factors discussed.
“It is our duty to discuss how the nutritious crop can also be part of the mid-day meal schemes in most schools of the country. If protein-coated rice is being considered for inclusion, mushroom is also a good candidate,” said Ms. Pandey.
India with enough manpower, raw material, agricultural space, and 10 months of suitable climate but is still reluctant to grow mushroom on a large scale. “India has 98 tonnes of agriculture waste being burnt. Even if 10 per cent of this waste is utilised for mushroom cultivation, 5 million tonnes of mushroom can be procured in a year, which would employ 2 million people,” said Ms. Pandey.
Even China grows 7 million tonnes of mushroom — of 65 varieties — every year, while India’s output is woefully low at 40,000 tonnes, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s study in 2013. “Although mushroom cultivation started in 1952, it has never been a streamlined regular industry because of farmers’ poor awareness about growing techniques, and people’s mistaken belief that it is non-vegetarian,” rued Ms. Pandey.
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