Until very recently, residents of the Kurdistan Region could purchase mushrooms only in the spring, when mushrooms grew naturally.
HAWRAMAN, Kurdistan Region – Mushroom farming is taking root in Iraqi Kurdistan, with new farms opening and producers eyeing local demand and exports.
Askandar Kaykhusraw, a medical institute graduate who opted for a different career and recently opened a mushroom farm in the Hawraman region, said that production was aimed at about five tons annually.
“Just as Hawraman pomegranates made it to international markets, we are hoping to produce enough to meet the Kurdistan market demand and then export to international markets,” Kaykhusraw told Rudaw.
Until very recently, residents of the Kurdistan Region could purchase mushrooms only in the spring, when mushrooms grew naturally. This led to high demand and high prices on imported mushrooms that came mainly from neighboring Iran.
“The weather in Kurdistan is suitable for producing mushrooms. From February to June mushrooms grow naturally,” said Rizgar Muhammed Agha, the director of Sulaimani Farming.
He said that besides two farms, in Askandar and Hawraman, a third would open in Penjwen, adding that the quality of locally-grown mushrooms was just as good as those produced abroad.
Hawraman resident Mariwan Ali, who advocates a vegetarian diet, now has an easy answer for those who ask him, “if we don’t eat meat, what should we eat?”
“Eat mushrooms,” he says. “Mushrooms compensate for meat.”
But Dr. Rafeeq M. Salih, dean of nutrition sciences at Sulaimani University, said that while mushrooms contained many vitamins and were low in cholesterol, “The amount of protein in mushrooms is not enough to substitute meat.”
Wurya Ali, an engineer at Hawraman farm, said that the mushrooms were grown naturally, without chemicals.
“The production of the mushrooms is very simple: No chemicals are used. We only use hay and American mushroom seeds from Florida.”
Kaykhusraw said he had bigger plans for his venture.
“We are also thinking about producing our own mushroom seeds, and maybe in the near future we will open two mushroom restaurants, one in Sulaimani and the other in Hawraman.” - Rudaw.net