Bright prospects for mushroom exports
The growing demand for mushroom exports have
encouraged all types of entrepreneurs to grow mushrooms indigenously
By SYED M. ASLAM
May 14 - 20, 2001
Mention mushroom to anyone here in Pakistan and the
chances are that the answer would be a loud 'what?' It is not that
Pakistanis are not familiar with mushroom — the umbrella-shaped
vegetation growing under the trunk of a tree, among sparse vegetation,
and sprinkled between grass after the rains. But the familiarity ends
there as mushroom occupies no any place in the local kitchen and
However, the umbrella-shaped fungus with a little
stalk tickles the taste-buds of millions around the world. Treated as
a delicacy, and favoured for its flavour, what gives mushroom its food
value is that it contains proteins and several vitamins on the one
hand and no cholesterol on the other. How more favourable can the
Unknown to the mushroom-indifferent populace,
mushroom is playing a significant role in the national economics by
earning a substantial foreign exchange from exports. Unknown to many,
it is the major contributor to the overall vegetables exports.
In 1998-99 Pakistan exported some 79 tonnes
mushroom the value of which was $ 4.49 million. In 1999-2000, mushroom
exports registered an increase of 53 per cent over the previous year
by earning a foreign exchange of $ 6.90 million. Not only the increase
in the value of mushroom exports was phenomenal but mushroom export
also contributed over 18 per cent to the overall vegetables exports of
$ 38 million the same year. The importance of mushroom in the overall
vegetables exports can hardly be over-stated.
Saying that there is no demand for the mushroom in
the domestic market would not be entirely true as it is used in food
preparations in five-star hotels, Chinese restaurants and pizza
chains. However, its use still remains off-limit in the mainstream
cookery, home cooking and culinary world. Only a negligible portion of
the mushroom produced locally is used within the country while the
bulk of it is finds it way into the international markets.
According to chairman of Fruits, Vegetables
Processors and Exporters Association, Mateen Siddiqui, less than one
per cent of the mushroom produced in the country is consumed locally
while the rest of the over 99 per cent is exported to help boost
overall vegetables exports.
The increasing demand for exports, and the premium
prices which it fetches, have encouraged many to grow mushroom
commercially on farms — including, but not limited, to state-owned
National Logistics Cell in and around the federal capital Islamabad.
However, sources told PAGE, farmed mushrooms make up only a
fraction of total exports. This is due primarily to two reasons:
number one, the commercial production is just enough to meet the local
demand, small as it is, and number two, the ideal climate, rich soil
and just the right altitude — 10,000-12,000 feet — in the North
West Frontier Province favourable for the wild growth.
Farmed production contribute less than one per cent
to overall mushroom exports while the rest comes from the natural
production in the NWFP. It may be safe to say that without the
natural/wild quantity growth in the NWFP there would have been no
mushroom exports from Pakistan.
It is interesting to note that although NWFP alone
supply the stocks to meet the demand of mushroom exports, the business
is monopolised by a handful of exporters in Karachi, Lahore and
Islamabad — some one dozen in numbers. This is primarily so as the
business savvy exporters are better informed and travelled to
understand the financial benefits of mushroom exports over the less or
uneducated mushroom. Who says that ignorance is a bliss?
Mushroom is a seasonal vegetable, grown best during
the monsoon season as it requires substantial water to let its bulb
grow to adequate size and weight. The stalks are shorter and less
weighty than the bulb which is considered as the most savoury part.
Mushrooms are exported both in fresh and dried forms. However, the
former far surpasses the later not only in term of quantity but also
in price as fresh mushrooms fetch higher prices in the international
The growing demand for mushroom exports and the
windfall which it promises, not to mention a small domestic market
which is eager to pay a premium price, have encouraged all types of
entrepreneurs to grow mushrooms indigenously. There are many who grow
it at their homes in Karachi in plastic bags lined with cotton waste
soaked in water. The cotton once soaked remains moist for quite
sometime to turn seeds into full grown mushrooms over a period of 3 to
5 weeks. The seeds are available at the main markets here in the city.
So remember to look up for fresh mushrooms the next
time you happen to visit Empress Market. You may also be able to buy
them at many super stores soaked in liquid and preserved in cans as
well as in dried form. Grill them, fry them, mix them with meat, throw
them in soups and add them in omelets — the choicea are not only
unlimited but can also be extremely succulent.