Many people of Khulna's Dumuria and Paikgachha upazila are profiting from collecting wild fungus that grows on siris tree.
Siris or lebbek tree is found all across the country. In the recent times, many people in the district have started collecting sticky fungus that grows on the tree’s branches and sell them to local traders.
Fungus-laden branches of the tree are sold at high prices. Shaving off the fungus from the branches, the traders then package it for selling to warehouses. Many people of the area have been making a livelihood from this work.
Many people who are engaged in other profession also collect fungi-infected branches as a part-time job for some extra profit. The search for fungus-laden siris trees begins early in the morning. Some collectors travel from one end of the upazila to the other in order to find siris trees with fungi-infected branches.
The infected tree branches are bought from the owner, chopped off and brought to the market. However, the traders and workers are unaware of what these fungi are used for.
Branch collectors Selim, Bokul and Hridoy of Paikgachha collect the sticky substances on siris tree branches from several areas including Kopilmunir, Nachirpur, Rezakpur, Kazimucha and sell them to local traders at the rate of Tk 300-400 per kg. At first, it was sold for Tk 800-1000 per kg, but gradually the price decreased due to increased supply.
Faruk Hossain, Alamin Morol and Asadul Islam of Nornia village of Dumuria upazila travel to different villages in the upazila and buy fungus-infected tree branches at various prices. They added that last week they had bought one branch for Tk 800, three for Tk 350 each and five for Tk 100 each.
After collecting branches during the day they process it in the evening and sell it to contracted buyers. They expect a profit of Tk 3,000-4,000 this time.
Traders Alamgir and Abdul Malek of Kopilmuni area of the upazila said this is not their primary profession but they started this business for some additional profit.
The price of the infected branches ranges from Tk 200-2,500 depending on the amount of fungus. The workers who shave off the fungus are paid Tk 40-50 for one kg fungus. The processed products are then sold for Tk 250-300 per kg, they added.
The traders added that the products are sent to Bogura, Feni and Kushtia via trucks but they do not know for what purpose it is used.
Abdul Hai, Imdadul Biswas and Alamgir Hossain Sardar came from Satkhira to buy the fungus. According to them, they sell the products to Indian traders for Tk 700-800 per kg. However, they also are ignorant of its usage.
Dumuria upazila's Atlia union parishad Chairman Sheikh Helal Uddin said, “It is a matter of concern that people of all ages climb so high up on the trees to find the fungi-infected branch. I am worried about their safety.”
Dumuria Upazila Agriculture Officer Md Insad Ibne Amin said, “I have heard that some sort of medicine is made from the fungus in India. It does not affect the large tree trunks but might damage the small branches. In that case, fungicides can be used to protect plants from this.”