Economy, Business And Markets

Mushrooms Finding Way Into Iranian Food Basket

Domestic Economy Desk
Iran’s edible mushroom production has climbed up in recent years, from 93,300 tons in the fiscal 2012-13 to 138,000 tons worth around 10 trillion rials ($240.78 million) last year (March 2016-17)
The world’s edible mushroom production is estimated to be worth around $20 billion.The world’s edible mushroom production is estimated to be worth around $20 billion.

The consumption of mushroom in Iran has been growing in the last five decades. Currently, 700 hectares of land are under mushroom cultivation across the country.

Malard Mushroom Factory, established in the fiscal 1985-86, is the biggest mushroom cultivation spot in Asia, ILNA reported.

Hossein Riahi, the owner, said currently the factory has over 100 cultivation shelters while the number was only 13 when the factory became operational.

According to Riahi, the factory exports over 20 tons of mushrooms to Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkmenistan on a monthly basis.

As demand for mushrooms increases with the growing awareness about its nutritional benefits, a foray into new markets for the product in neighboring countries could generate vast employment opportunities in the sector.

The factory currently employs 700 people.

In an interview with Financial Tribune, Gholamreza Taqavi, the director general of Greenhouses, Medicinal Plants and Edible Mushrooms Office with the Ministry of Agriculture, confirmed that Iran’s edible mushroom production has climbed in recent years, from 93,300 tons in the fiscal 2012-13 to 138,000 tons worth around 10 trillion rials ($240.78 million) last year (March 2016-17).

Taqavi also said the provinces of Tehran, Alborz, Khorasan Razavi, Qazvin and Isfahan are the top producers of edible mushroom in Iran.

According to the official, global fresh edible mushroom production stood at more than 10 million tons in 2014.

“Considering the average global price for edible mushroom, which is $2,000 per ton, the world’s edible mushroom production is estimated to be worth around $20 billion,” he said.

Often grouped with vegetables, mushrooms provide many of the nutritional attributes more commonly found in meat, beans or grains. Mushrooms are low in calorie, fat-free, cholesterol-free, gluten-free and very low in sodium, yet they provide important nutrients, including selenium, potassium (8%), riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D and more.

Mushrooms are a good source of B vitamins, including riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid, which help provide energy by breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates. B vitamins also play an important role in the nervous system.

According to the statistics of Food and Agriculture Organization, Iran was ranked the eighth biggest edible mushroom producer in the world in 2014 after China, Italy, US, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and France.

FAO said Poland, the Netherlands, China, Lithuania, Ireland, Canada, Belgium, Belarus, South Korea and Germany are the top global edible mushroom exporters.

“The number of mushroom cultivation units in the country has been on the rise in recent years, going up from 612 in the fiscal 2012-13 to 1,110 last year, creating direct jobs for 7,716 people,” Taqavi said.

Speaking of the challenges facing mushroom growers in Iran, he identified a couple of issues, including lack of infrastructures for exporting edible mushrooms, low volume of mushroom exports, high production costs and taxes, electricity tariffs for production units, presence of unlicensed units disrupting the mushroom market and the imbalance caused by the sudden increase in mushrooms supplied in the second half of the year.

According to Taqavi, it takes at least 22 billion rials ($529,737) to establish an edible mushroom production unit with a production capacity of 200 tons per year in Iran.

However, the amount of investment differs for small units that do not need to comply with certain regulations and standards.

The official emphasized that despite the common belief that mushroom cultivation is easy and does not need specialized know-how, every investor must know that theoretical and practical skills of edible mushroom production is a must.

“Unlike other agro activities for which cultivation and harvesting are done during certain time periods, mushroom cultivation—due to the range of production periods (six two-month production periods in a year)—needs constant supervision throughout the year and requires the growers to be engaged on a daily basis,” he said.

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