Case Studies

Mushroom Heroes: Leaving behind corporate employees

The rising income of mushroom cultivators in Haryana is leaving behind the corporate employees and making agriculture a sexiest profession. Mohd Mustaquim reports

Mushroom Heroes: Leaving behind corporate employees

Nikko, a 50 year old landless woman in Panipat district of Haryana, with no education, was earning a daily wages of Rs 80-100, which was her only source of income. Can she become self-reliant? If the State has instrumental policies, then, the simple answer is, yes. It was made possible by the Haryana government’s intervention.

The lady spends Rs 35,000 on making compost every year and cultivates mushroom in four rooms of her house and earns Rs 150,000 to Rs 200,000 in the winter season. The first time investment was subsidised by the State.

The State government had launched a scheme in 2007 under which it provides approximately 50 percent subsidy to small, marginal and landless farmers and unemployed people to improve their socio-economic status. Continuing this scheme, the State government allocated an annual outlay of Rs 750 lakh in 2013-14 and 2014-15 each. Today, Haryana is the largest mushroom producer in India and provides a rich nutrient vegetable to the largely vegetarian country. 

Nikko makes compost from husk of wheat and mustard. Usually, it takes one month in making compost before winters. Once the compost is ready it is placed in the bags or trays, which are then kept in a dark room. There has to be a negligible spray of water to manage moisture in the compost. Gypsum, urea and jaggery syrup is used in very small volume as fertiliser. “A bag of compost costs around Rs 50 and produces mushroom worth Rs 250 to Rs 300,” she says.

Nikko is not alone, there are many farmers who are getting decent earnings through mushroom cultivation in the State – making it the largest producer of mushrooms. Likewise, 51 year old Anil Saini in Hisar, grows 100 tonnes mushroom in three acres of land. He, however, received Rs 17 lakh subsidy from the State government as first time investment. The State government under its horticulture policy provides 50 percent subsidy for developing pucca sheds. Small mushroom growers like Nikko buy seeds from outside while the ones like Saini produce them on their own.    
        
Saini had started mushroom cultivation in 1991 with 120 trays with an annual production of 1,700 kg. Now, he is growing this high nutrient vegetable in 10,000 trays and has become an inspiration for other farmers in the surrounding areas. As a result, 30 more farmers from his area have started cultivating mushroom.

Motivated by the Haryana State horticulture department and local Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), another progressive farmer from Hisar, Sushil Kumar, 38, has crafted his own way of entrepreneurship by cultivating this cash crop. He not only grows 30 quintal of mushroom in his two sheds, but also supplies seeds at Rs 80-90 per kg and sells compost bags to other farmers. According to him, each bag costs around Rs 70-75 which produces mushroom worth Rs 250-300. The total project cost was Rs 20 lakh out of which he got Rs 8 lakh subsidy under the State Horticulture Mission.

This highly remunerative crop is only grown in the winter season in the closed sheds or rooms. However, the increasing income has encouraged people to cultivate it in the summer season as well in the air-conditioned sheds.

Transforming mushroom cultivation into an enterprise, 43 year old, Harpal Singh Bajwa of Bhorsainchda village, Kurukshetra earns annually Rs 50 to 60 lakh by cultivating mushroom in his 26, 30’x60’ sheds. His initial production in 1995-96 was 17.5 quintal from a single shed. Registering a modest growth, today he cultivates 500 quintal. Going a step ahead, he supplies compost to Uttar Pradesh and Haryana while Delhi, Haryana and Punjab have become a good market for his mushrooms. Inspired by him, around 400 to 500 farmers from his area are growing this white vegetable.

The list of heroes does not end here. Raj Kumar, a 46 year old progressive farmer from Panjetho village, Yamuna Nagar started growing mushroom in two acre land in 2008-09, making an earning of Rs 20 lakh per year. He was trained and subsidised by the district horticulture department. Currently, with the same landholding, he is cultivating 600 quintal mushroom, boasting an annual income of Rs 50 lakh with a net profit of Rs 30-35 lakh. His mushroom is largely consumed by the people of Chandigarh.

Similarly, Manjit Singh and Gulab Singh of Samalkha village, Panipat cultivate this vegetable in 70, 22’x50’ sheds. They produce 200-220 tonnes mushroom annually and have become the second largest producer in the State.

And in this race, how can Kanwal Singh Chauhan of Aterna village in Sonepat go behind. His story of entrepreneurship through baby corn farming has already gone through your sight few months ago. Stepping further, he not only cultivates mushroom but also procures from other farmers and supply them after packaging. This progressive farmer produces around 120 tonnes mushroom which inspires other farmers and now this vegetable is cultivated in 1,000 hectare area.

There has been a big hue and cry that agriculture is not a remunerative profession. But, these progressive farmers have actually shown the way to other farmers and policy makers that how this traditional profession can be made a moneymaking business. The only thing needed is just to think out-of-the-box. There is a clear need to diversify agriculture from traditional way of farming.

(Figures are provided by the farmers) 

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