Mushroom growers started production again at great risk due to market uncertainty amidst the pandemic.
Kurukshetra: Many mushroom growers have reduced their production this year, as mushroom sales are uncertain because of Covid-19.
“I have to bear a loss of Rs. 22 lacs because of the lockdown, and now I have taken a loan to restart the production,” said Suresh Pal Saini, who has been growing mushrooms for almost six years. His production plant has seasonal as well as AC rooms. But due to the uncertainties caused by the pandemic, he is only operating in AC rooms. “My survival depends on mushroom production. I don’t have any other choice,” he said.
Krishan Chand, a grower for nearly 10 years, based in Ajrawar, had around 12 quintals of mushroom when the government announced the first lockdown in March. “Since the markets were closed, I could not sell the mushrooms, so I gave it to city gurudwaras,” he said. “After the first lockdown, I stopped the production, and restarted it in October,” he added. He is currently working with six seasonal huts.
After the lockdown, casing material prices have also gone up. The casing material conserves moisture for the mushrooms, without which production cannot take place. Growers suffer severely when something like this happens.
Vikram Sharma, a grower, based in Ambala city, has been facing issues like rising casing material prices since the government lifted the lockdown. “We are also facing a delay in getting the material as it comes from Karnataka,” he said.
Data from the Horticulture Department, Haryana shows the production was 10580 million tonnes last year. However, this year production has been affected by the lockdown imposed by the government.
The lockdown affected mushroom production of growers like Vikram Sharma. “I have reduced my production from 15000 quintal last year to 9000 quintals this year due to pandemic,” he said.
Similarly, Maher Singh, a grower, said, “I have not done this year’s March production because of the lockdown.”
Vinod Khurana, an advisor to growers for about 10 years, said the production has dropped by 60 percent, “Growers who were producing in 20 huts have come to almost 10 huts,” he said.
Although the market prices for mushroom are the same as last year, growers fear that sales might go down because of the restrictions on gatherings like marriages. Vikram Sharma said, “I am getting the same price for the mushroom as last year. However because of the pandemic, I am producing mushrooms in two rooms, which was five rooms last year.”
Moreover, Harpal Singh Bajwa, a spawn seller, and a mushroom buyer said, “This year, our spawn sale is 40 percent less as growers are uncertain of its sale due to Covid-19.”
Similarly, Bajwa said, the canned mushroom buyers already have around 70 percent stock of last year, which they could not sell because of the lockdown imposed from March 23. “This is another reason that has led to growers not producing at the usual production rate,” he added.
Rohit Sharma, manager at Hotel Saffron, said, “Though we are using the fresh mushroom and not canned ones, our demand has come down to 50 percent as compared to last year.”