Mushrooms In Afghanistan
In this blog I am writing a few words about an important and valuable vegetable which is growing naturally in Afghanistan, The mushroom. Afghan mushrooms are famous for their quality in global markets, and officials say that 80 percent of the vegetable is useful in making medicines.
Mushroom is a fungi which belong to the class Basidiomycetes the family Tricholomataceae. The genus is Pleurotus and the species is Pleurotus ostreatus.
It can be produced within the climatic conditions existing in Afghanistan, especially in the Eastern region. The only special requirement it needs to grow is above average humidity and fresh air. All over Afghanistan there is a demand for mushrooms by hotels, restaurants, and also by private households. At present mushrooms are being imported from Iran or Pakistan at a high price, but by processing and cultivating mushrooms here in Afghanistan, we will avoid the need to import. Farmers, widows or even landless people can grow mushrooms, because they can be grown inside a room with temperature control.
To start with, the mushroom grower should decide about the kind of material to be used for the production of the mushrooms. The best criterion for the selection of this substrate material is that it is cheap, easily available and tested. Mushrooms grow well on a range of agricultural and wood waste products including hardwood chips, chopped cereal straw or corncobs. It is important that the material used is clean, completely dry, and free from mould and has no signs of decomposition.
Mushrooms will be ready for harvesting after 4-5 days after pinheads appear, depending on the temperature. The cropping interval will vary between 8 and 10 days. Mushrooms can be picked when cap size is 5-10 cm.
Normally during the winter months (October till March) at lower altitudes and in the summer months (March till October) at higher altitudes it is possible to produce mushrooms. Each production batch requires approximately 3 months. This means that at each location during the year a mushroom producer can harvest 2 times.
In Afghanistan, generally farmers are less aware of marketing practices, which leaves them open to exploitation by a middleman. This is the main reason why Agro–based cottage industry is not flourishing in Afghanistan. Middlemen buy high value agro products from the producers at a relatively low price, and then sell them at a much higher price to selected clients e.g. hotels, restaurants, and domestic households.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of added value in the production chain, traders must export unprocessed Afghan mushroom to Pakistan instead of processing the product and selling it direct from Afghanistan. Instead, mushrooms shipped through Pakistan to international markets get a Pakistani trademark, insinuating that the precious agricultural product is Pakistani, not Afghan.
Northern Badakhshan, Kunar, Nooristan provinces as well as the Hindukosh mountains produce mushrooms naturally. Their mushrooms can compare to the quality and value of those from other countries in the world.
The price of a kilo of dried mushroom is around $150 dollars in Afghanistan, but as traders in Pakistan adds value by processing it and packaging it, the cost peaks at $900 dollars. It is then exported to international markets as a Pakistani agricultural product. Afghanistan produces 200 tons of dried mushrooms each year, but due to lack of process facilities they are being exported to neighboring countries, particularly to Pakistan, at a cheap price.
Deputy Head of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) Khanjan Alokozai said there hasn’t been any investment in mushroom production. “We want the Afghan businessmen and businesswomen to invest. This is a good chance for business owners.” Unfortunately, Afghan farmers and residents have yet to see the value or potential in mushrooms. “People don’t care about mushrooms. Most often they get eaten by animals,” Mr. Alokozai said.