More than 1,200 households at Block 6, Lien Nghia Town, Duc Trong have been growing wood ear mushrooms for over 10 years, which forms a region specializing in mushroom cultivation and creates main sources of income for local people. Even though mushroom growers really need technical support, local authority does not take them into care properly.
Along the streets at Block 6, Lien Nghia town, Duc Trong, there are very specific mushroom farms lying alternately in the local houses with outstanding dark green roofs. And there are a wide variety of wood ear mushrooms being dried in the gardens on sunny days.
Growing mushrooms requires mushroom farms. Each farm, which is often about 8 metres wide and 14 metres long (about 120m2), includes a concrete basement, bamboo or bambusa frame (or iron frame made by some families) and coconut leaf roof bought at some provinces of Mekong Delta. The roofs are replaced 3 years a time. Local people make watering system and above tree array where they can walk in the farms. Water from wells are pumped and used for watering mushrooms because they may adjust the amount of water according to the developing conditions of mushrooms in the farms. Underlying investment cost for a mushroom farm is not so much, which is about 15 million. The farm which is built on the garden lands around the houses can be used for production throughout the year. Each farm may hang 10 thousand mushroom bags. Almost every family has from 1 to 3 mushroom farms and it depends on the fact that the garden lands are wide or small. Many families has plenty of mushroom farms. For example, Mr. Bui Van Nhot household has 5 farms, Mr. Dinh Van De has 12 farms and Mr. Nguyen Van Chung has 14 farms.
To produce wood ear mushrooms, mushroom growers buy materials from Dong Nai. The materials, which are mushroom bags, contain sawdust, fertilizers and mixed mushroom spawn. Such bought bags are tied into rows, hang up in the farms and watered every day. The farms are tightly covered with tarpaulin. The bags are slit after from 1 week to 15 days and spawn starts developing into mushrooms. First crop can be harvested after about 1 month and a half. If the materials are still good, second crop can be harvested. Then, all the bags are discarded and substituted for new bags. Each farm can give 4 crops every year.
“Not any jobs are relaxed as mushroom cultivation. It only requires techniques and experience. Compared to farming, it is more relaxed whether it is rainy or sunny”, Mr. Bui Van Nhot said. Being one of the mushroom growing pioneers, he has established the farm since 2000. Until now, he has developed 5 farms at a land of 500 m2. And he has hung up to 40 – 50 thousand mushroom bags for each crop. Last year, because of scarcity in materials, he made less than before, about 22 thousand mushroom bags. However, he collected 900 kilos of dry mushrooms. He gained more than 30 million dong after selling the price of 88 thousand dong per kilo and deducting the arising costs. He happily added “Doing gardening or growing vegetables is harder but does not give as much yield as mushroom cultivation. Especially, mushroom growers here have such good methods, that is to change growing turns for each other. Harvesting time requires the most effort but every day, the families only need to water and try to change growing turns. At harvest, there are some people coming to do for us”.
The most worrying difficulty that wood ear mushroom growers in Duc Trong are facing up is scarcity in materials. According to the mushroom growers, the mushroom bags are bought from manufacturing facilities of Dong Nai and delivered directly to home. Main materials of these are wood pulp made of rubber trees. Such materials were very abundant since few people grow mushrooms in the previous years. The more mushroom cultivation areas in Duc Trong are increasingly expanded, the shorter such materials are. That makes their prices much higher. Each material bag was just 1700 dong in the past. Now, it increases more than 1000 dong. Meanwhile, the price of dried commercial mushrooms gradually decreases because of buying and selling competition.
Instead of discarding mushroom bags like before, manufacturing facilities collect such bags again to recycle due to the shortage of materials. Whether recycling those bags are done well or not, the quality of such mushroom bags have become worse in recent years, according to the mushroom growers. The mushrooms are not well collected, difficult to take care and have many diseases. There are some local people who are producing the materials for seeds to avoid being too much affected and manipulated by the owners of seed manufacturing facilities of Dong Nai. However, they do not give too bad quality. In other words, they do not meet the requirements, which makes mushroom growers have to continually buy seeds from the other provinces. Due to the increasing material price, low product price and low profit, many families are narrowing in the production and leaving many mushroom farms empty.
“We do need some advice of technical staffs”, Mr. Nhot, the owner of 5 mushroom farms said. Indeed, the mushroom growers in Duc Trong need technical support from provincial agriculture staffs. The reasons that mushrooms do not give high yield or what medicine they should take to deal with diseases are the matters they need to be explained. The most important matter is materials. “I just buy but do not know whether this kind is good or bad. How good it is when we get more advice from technical staffs. And if Lam Dong actively produces the materials, we will get more benefits”, Mr. Anh insisted.
Another people suggested that local authority should support to establish a wood ear mushroom growing association at the local region. This association will have more strength in negotiating in material input, selling price and avoiding price pressure from traders. It has been long recommended by local people but still not established yet.
Translated by Hoàng Oanh – According to Lam Dong Newspaper