The Mushroom Development Foundation has launched an entrepreneur development programme in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Entrepreneurs, for mushroom cultivators in a bid to give them insights into marketing strategies and ways to increase profits.
Also, the horticulture department is constructing 82 processing and sales hubs in different parts of the state, where the foundation has set up mushroom clusters.
Currently, there are nearly 22 mushroom clusters in the Northeast and about 2,500 farmers are engaged in mushroom cultivation.
Pranjal Baruah, founding secretary of the Mushroom Development Foundation and a mushroom entrepreneur himself, said 30 people had been selected for the first training programme, which was under way at Jagiroad.
“The selected candidates would be provided 125 hours of training over 45 days. The programme include modules on everything from cutting straw, boiling and preparing mushroom bags to accountancy, commercial law, how to apply for bank loans, design and packaging, how to add value to the mushroom by pickling, how to run a shop or sales counter and prepare project reports,” Baruah said.
“Concrete rooms are being constructed by the horticulture department in houses of individuals, but will be used as sales hubs by members of the mushroom clusters. We will also tell them how to manage these hubs and maintain the flow of products. These small farmers should learn about market economy.”
Baruah said the foundation was providing spawn and agro-technological inputs for growing mushrooms but without the knowledge of marketing, real profits could not be realised.
“After the Jagiroad cluster is covered, other clusters will be taken up one by one till all 22 are covered.”
He said mushrooms were being used as a tool to organise clusters of villages because the region can reap dual benefits from them, as they can be used as cheap nutritious food and for exports.
Baruah, who packages and sells his products both locally and outside the state under the brand name Mushfill, boasts an annual income of Rs 25 lakh.
“Abroad, mushrooms are expensive and in great demand. There is a tremendous potential to tap this market. The Mushroom Development Foundation — a citizens’ organisation — decided to organise farmers who were interested to go for largescale cultivation,” he said.
As mushrooms are not land-intensive, they can be grown cheaply on agricultural waste and inside houses, stacked on shelves.