Covid-19: UP returnees take to mushroom farming
Officials of the state horticulture department and Krishi Vigyan Kendra, which is a part of National Agricultural Research System, said they were flooded with queries and applications related to mushroom farming
Mushroom farming, one of the most profitable agri-business, is turning out to be an alternative means of livelihood for many migrants, who came back to Uttar Pradesh (UP) after being rendered jobless during the 68-day-long coronavirus disease (Covid-19)-induced nation-wide lockdown restrictions that were enforced from March 25.
Officials of the state horticulture department and Krishi Vigyan Kendra, which is a part of National Agricultural Research System (NARS), said they were flooded with queries and applications related to mushroom farming.
Perhaps, Lucknow is the first place in UP to witness the “unusual” trend, according to agricultural experts.
“We are flooded with queries related to mushroom farming. Though it has always been a profitable venture but never before have we witnessed such enthusiasm among people. And what is common among the query seekers is that a majority of them are youths and many of them are migrants,” said Meena Maurya, district horticulture officer.
State horticulture department officials said around 140 among the query-seekers have got themselves registered for the mushroom farming training programme, which would start from Monday (September 21).
“Mushroom season lasts between September and March. By the time we will be starting our training session, I am sure many more will apply for the training programme that aims to impart correct technique to the mushroom farmers in a bid to help increase their yield to the maximum,” said Dr SK Chauhan, an official of the state horticulture department.
Besides Lucknow, mushroom farming is done in almost all its neighbouring districts, including Sitapur, Hardoi, Sultanpur, Faizabad, Barabanki etc.
Only ray of hope
Sankalp Kumar, a migrant worker, who belongs to a remote village in UP’s Bareilly district and had returned to his native place from Gujarat in May because of the viral outbreak, said: “It’s been over four months since I returned to my village after I had left by job in Ahmedabad. In such a situation when there is no job, mushroom farming, which is quite common in my village, seems to be the only option to explore. I have heard that profit in this farming activity is quite high, while the investment is very low.”
Other migrants, who live in rural parts of Lucknow and in the adjoining districts, also said that the mushroom farming was the only ray of hope for them to earn their livelihood amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cab owners, traders also among applicants
Others who suffered losses in the contagion such as cab, travel agency owners and garment traders have also applied for mushroom farming training programme, said state horticulture department officials.
The authorities at Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Lucknow, confirmed the discernible trend. “The enthusiasm is going to take mushroom farming to another level. We have received around 250 applications and expect more by the time the training programme starts on Monday,” said Deepak Rai, a subject matter expert (SME) at KVK, Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR)-Indian Institute of Sugarcane Research (IISR), Lucknow.
Why mushroom farming?
“When compared to other crops, mushroom farming is not only cost effective but it also gives much more profit,” said Rai.
In UP, farmers largely deal in three variants of mushrooms — button, oyster and milky. Of them, oyster mushrooms are the cheapest .
“Any person, who has a 10 feet (ft) by 10 ft room can start oyster mushroom farming with zero investment. A crop can yield mushrooms for up to 25 days. A kilogram (kg) of oyster mushroom is sold for Rs 300 or more depending on its demand in the market,” Rai added.
Milky mushroom is also in great demand but the investment in the trade is a little higher, as compared to oyster mushroom. While the button mushroom farming is the costliest affair as it entails an initial investment of up to Rs 2 lakh.
“But at the same time, it is sold at a much higher price. One kg of button mushroom costs between Rs 400 and Rs 500,” he added.
Health benefits of mushroom
*Checks Cholesterol Levels: Mushrooms are full of lean proteins and have negligible fat or cholesterol. They are a great source of chitin and beta-glucan that are fibres which keep a check on a person’s cholesterol levels
*Maintains Bone Health: Mushrooms contain abundant calcium, an essential nutrient to maintain strong bones
*Boosts Immune System: Out of the many antioxidants present in mushrooms, ergothioneine is an antioxidant that is effective in protecting a human body from any free radicals. Mushrooms also contain natural antibiotic and anti-fungal properties that help get rid of various infections
*Good for Diabetics: “Mushroom is a superfood for those suffering from blood sugar. Mushroom is a good source for chromium, which helps maintain blood sugar levels, and keeps a check on insulin,” said Dr Simran Saini. Besides, mushroom is low on both carbohydrate and fat
*Helps in Weight Loss: Mushrooms contain a lot of fibre that helps in improving digestion and keeps metabolism in check.
*Button mushrooms are very low in calories: They offer essential protein and amino acids, sufficient levels of mineral, vitamins and fibre. They carry vitamin D in the form of ergocalciferol. Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin required for bone growth and calcium metabolism. It contains excellent levels of selenium, copper, phosphorus, zinc, and potassium