Mushroom farming: Goldmine with promising bumper harvest
The global mushroom cultivation market has been projected to witness significant growth, majorly due to its growing acceptability and rising demand across the world.
While it was estimated to account for a value of $16.7b in 2020 with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of four per cent, it has been projected to hit a value of $20.4b by 2025.
Some of the major factors fuelling its high demand include its multiple health benefits; increasing consumption level; cost-effective production; and increasing health-conscious population across the world, among others.
Mushrooms are fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting bodies of a fungus, typically produced above ground, on soil, fallen tree, or on its food source. They are fat-free, low in calories, and filled with vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients.
According to the American National Cancer Institute, its antioxidant content may help prevent lung, prostate, breast, and other types of cancer. Mushrooms can also help to make the brain healthy.
Reports have it that mushroom cultivation in Europe and Asia, particularly India and China is growing gradually as an alternative source of income for many people, while some African countries are also toeing this line.
But while other countries are tapping into the opportunities this product offers, only a few Nigerian farmers are embracing the goldmine, as that line of agribusiness has been constantly snubbed for too long.
In Nigeria, though it is an essential vegetable with medicinal value, the produce regularly grows in the wild like a weed, with only a small fraction of farmers properly cultivating and harvesting it for food and commercial purposes.
Although there are several types of mushrooms – button, oyster, shiitake, maitake, nameko, enoki, mane, straw, and shimji, among others, not all the varieties are edible, as some are poisonous in nature.
Experts claim that the product is in high demand in the food market and is usually recommended by doctors and nutritionists. It was also learnt that it is one of the most sought after vegetables by most hotels and restaurants where it’s used as a delicious addition to local meals and intercontinental dishes because of its rich nature.
According to the National Farmers Information Service (NAFIS), Nigeria produces 300 tonnes of mushrooms yearly, against a demand of 1,200 tonnes, leaving a deficit of 900 tonnes.
Stakeholders are of the opinion that the product will enjoy massive patronage locally and in the international market if more farmers engage in its cultivation, as the product can be dried and exported as a cash crop to key mushroom markets like the United States, India, and United Kingdom, among others.
A mushroom farmer based in Niger State, Qudus Haruna, who described mushroom farming as one of the most profitable agribusinesses in the country, said as Nigeria is abundantly blessed with the dark loamy soil that is best suitable for its cultivation, if well cultivated it will serve as another money-spinner for the country.
“Mushrooms are easy to grow indoors, especially because they don’t require light. Cremini, enoki, maitake, portobello, oyster, shiitake, and white button mushrooms can all be grown indoors, but each type has specific growing needs.
“Mushrooms can also be grown in a garden; they can tolerate some light, but the spot you choose should stay mostly dark or in low light — cool, and humid environments. Most mushrooms grow best in temperatures between 55 and 60°F.”
The Chief Executive Officer of ChiTola Farms Limited, Chi Tola, who linked the apathy in the cultivation of mushrooms to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, said more farmers are beginning to explore its cultivation.
She said: “COVID-19 of course is the obvious reason a lot of things happened to farmers. Fragile crops like mushrooms need daily attention and many farmers couldn’t give them that last year, so of course when you don’t cultivate or the chain is broken once, it takes 10 times the effort to get back. But this year, a lot of people are going into this aspect of farming. Some are farming for home use and a lot of others commercially.”
While describing mushroom farming as a goldmine that Nigeria is yet to tap into, she said there is a need for proper training for any farmer before delving into it. “Mushroom is not like other crops. To go commercial, you will require some capital and training. This will help you determine how far to go and which aspect to venture into.”
“If one surmounts funding challenge, the other major challenge you are likely to face is skilled labour. The National Association of Mushroom Farmers has made the issue of input easy, there are inputs now, but skilled labour is still an aspect we need to tackle. ChiTola Farms is starting training of personnel and will be recruiting them for farms that will require their services.”
She added that the usage of sawdust for cultivation is the simplest and almost only viable commercial means of cultivation presently.
On his part, the Managing Director – Agro Heights Farms Nigeria Limited, Mr. Seyi Ogunneye, said the mushroom industry in Nigeria has N50b net worth.
He said the potential of the agribusiness is quite positive, adding that with the value addition that is currently witnessed from the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), there is a great future for mushroom farming in Nigeria.
“Some of the challenges the industry is facing include dearth of skilled labour; funding; and clear cut requirements for growers for certifications by the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).”
He said for new farmers to join the mushroom farming, “firstly, a mushroom farmer has to identify where in the mushroom value chain he/she will like to come in (cultivation, processing or production of mushroom inputs). When that has been established, mentorship/training will be a great asset to the farmer so as to gain hands-on practical experience before venturing.”