By Cliff Chiduku
Mushroom growing has become one of the fastest-growing home-based agro-business venture in Zimbabwe.
For years, it has proven to be a wellspring of income for many, especially youths and women.
It has become popular because it allows the recycling of worthless materials such as sawdust, banana leaves, husks and dung, which could otherwise pollute the environment, to be turned into nourishing delights.
The demand for edible fungi is growing daily because some customers cannot afford to buy foods like fish or meat because they are expensive.
A mushroom is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground, on soil or on its food source.
A nutritionist with a local non-governmental organisation, Chipo Mtemba concurred that mushrooms contain the same nutrients such as protein that are usually found in other meats. She added that mushroom, also known as toadstool, also provide a type of protein known as lysine and tryptophan, which usually lacks in some cereals and vegetables.
“Mushrooms are highly nutritious, low fat and medicinal foods that are crucial to human health. They act as antioxidants that may protect the body against cancer, immune boosters and lower high blood pressure,” Mtemba said. “While it (mushroom) it only rich in proteins, it is also a good source of vitamins, minerals and folic acid, as well as being a useful supply of iron for anaemic people.”
Zimbabwe boasts of a variety of indigenous mushrooms that are harvested in forests and their production is confined to the rainfall season as it provides conducive conditions for the germination of spores. These include nhedzi, huvhe, zheve, pfirifiti, chihumbiro and dindindi, among others.
While some people are sceptical of consuming wild mushrooms for fear of poisoning, mushroom farming has of late gained traction due to ever-increasing demand. Cultivated varieties include oyster and button, which are sold as fresh or dried.
Mushroom farmer Owen Karembera said he is making a fortune out of edible fungi production and training.
“Mushroom farming is very easy. One must undergo a one-week training, where they are equipped with the ins and outs of growing mushroom. Some of the advantages of mushrooming farming is that it requires less labour and doesn’t require huge capital, yet, the market for the delicacy is readily available,” he said, adding that he was being overwhelmed by demand, especially from supermarkets and hoteliers. Karembera said on average, he harvests 20kg per week.
One can venture into a mushroom project with growing structures made of plastic sheeting at the backyard of the home in urban settings. In rural areas, readily available material such maize stalks can be used. What is then required is spore and mushroom seed which is also affordable.
Mushroom farming in Zimbabwe is not as organised as other agri-ventures and this makes it difficult to track production and marketing of the crop. However, the FAOSTAT estimates that in 2018, Zimbabwe produced 770 tonnes of mushroom, 800 tonnes in 2019 and 830 tonnes in 2020.
The world mushroom market is projected to grow from 15,25 million tonnes in 2021 to 24,05 million tonnes in 2028, according to the Fortune Business Insights. Button is the most consumed type across the world. China, US, Italy, UK, Germany and India are the top producers of mushroom.
A survey by the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) revealed that a kilogramme of button costs between US$7 and US$10, while that of oyster costs between US$2,50 and US$5 in local supermarkets. To supplement its national requirement, Zimbabwe is importing mushroom from China and Poland.
That there is a ready market for “ground meat” and that currently our local production is not satisfying the local markets should provide enough motivation to venture into mushroom farming. Zimbabwe boost of conducive climatic conditions for production, especially of oyster mushroom. Mushroom production can be done irrespective of age and gender provided one has necessary skills. It also provides quick returns and a potential income generator all-year round.
With the government’s foot on the pedal to attain food sufficiency, mushroom farming remains a low hanging fruit. National food sufficiency is key as enunciated in the National Development Strategy 1, which identifies food security and nutrition as drivers of economic revival.
Cliff Chiduku is Agricultural Marketing Authority communications officer.
Word from the Market is a column produced by the Agriculture Marketing Authority (AMA) to promote market-driven production of agricultural products. Send feedback to: firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp +263781706212.