Mushroom farmers in the district who were finding the going tough owing to the unavailability of quality spawns, can breathe easy now. The first laboratory that commercially develops and sells mushroom spawns for farmers started putting the seeds up for sale at Perumanna in Kozhikodedistrict on Tuesday.

The laboratory, funded by the district panchayat, was set up a month ago at the Women Industrial Centre building, which is under the Perumanna panchayat. The spawns were prepared in a month-long process and would be available for farmers from the centre, said district panchayat member Dinesh Perumanna, who has been in the forefront of campaigns to create awareness of the wide possibilities of mushroom farming.

According to him, as many as 60 Kudumbasree workers in different units in the panchayat were given training in mushroom cultivation as part of an ongoing Koon Gramam (Mushroom Village) project undertaken by the panchayat in Perumanna to spread the practice in different wards of the panchayat. “We have decided to set up one mushroom production shed each at all the 18 wards,” he said.

In the past, farmers were purchasing spawns from Coimbatore at a high price. “There existed different kinds of exploitations in the field. Traders sometimes sold poor-quality spawns at an exorbitant rates,” said K. Sreedharan, director of the district skill development centre, which is running the spawn laboratory at Perumanna.

There are over 35 full-time farmers at the panchayat who are concentrating on mushroom farming. “We expect to provide all of them with the required volume of spawns from the lab,” said Prof. Sreedharan. “We have also plans to expand the lab,” he said. The laboratory, set up at a cost of Rs.5 lakh, has employed a microbiologist and an assistant for production purposes. Prof. Sreedharan said it could produce around 100 packets of spawns daily with the current staff strength. One packet contains 200 g of spawns, which will be sufficient for cultivating three beds of mushroom. One packet of spawn is sold at Rs.35.

District panchayat president K. Jameela, who inaugurated the sale of mushroom spawns on Tuesday, said it was for the first time that a local body was taking a purposeful and concrete step towards popularising mushroom farming. “This will be effectively supported and followed up by training programmes,” she said.

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