Mushroom farming is now gaining more grounds in Nigeria, with lots of Nigerians tapping and embracing this form of landless agriculture.
This form of farming according to experts do not necessarily require so much space, as it is something you can do at the back of your house or even in your kitchen.
Report has it that mushrooms is cultivated and sold commercially in over 60 countries. China, Italy, United States and the Netherlands are top producers in the world with China recording over 5 million tons production annually.
Mushroom, according to experts, is one of the most profitable crops in the world; it is one of the top ten most profitable crops to grow in the world. Stakeholders in mushroom farming, said it is high time Nigerians began to tap into the multimillion-dollar mushroom business with huge returns and limitless opportunities to make life better for the grower.
Apparently not happy that government has not given support for its cultivation in the country, stakeholders said its health benefits and export potentials if properly harnessed could be a money-spinner for farmers in the country. They said that the business is a special area that needs to be explored and promoted by the government at all levels, the agro agencies, nutritionists, researchers, institutions, among others.
On the nutritional benefit of mushroom, experts said that it contains important minerals in large quantities for the body and these minerals include selenium, copper, potassium and phosphorous.
Mushrooms, according to them, are also known to improve people’s diet habits because of its ability to increase appetite, as it contain Vitamin D and they are a good substitute for red meat and an option for vegetarians.
Reports also had it that mushrooms are good for weight control, as they contain little fat. Most known and studied mushrooms have been termed medicinal and with an ability to boost the immune system.
Chi Tola Roberts, President of the Mushroom Development Foundation, Nigeria (MDFN) while speaking with DAILY INDEPENDENT said that mushroom business is quite lucrative, that the return on investment is 100 per cent world over, not only in Nigeria.
“Though it takes time to grow; it is a kind of farming that requires time and commitment. You treat this fungus like you treat your baby, it needs care, it needs to avoid contamination, but if you are able to go through all those hurdles it pays off,” she said.
Roberts also said that the popularity of mushrooms is still based not on the nutrients that they contain but mostly on their exotic taste and their culinary properties, whether eaten alone or in combination with other foods.
“It is not well-known that mushrooms are full of nutrients and can therefore make a very important contribution to human nutrition. Protein is one of the most important nutrients in food, being particularly important for building body tissues.
“Mushroom, with protein content ranging from three to seven percent when fresh and 25 to 40 per cent when dry can play an important role in enriching human diets when meat sources are limited.
She further stated that the protein content is almost equal to that of corn, milk, and legumes, although still lower than meat, fish and eggs.
“As a dietary source of protein, mushrooms are superior to most fruits and vegetables with the exception of beans and peas. Mushrooms can be eaten fresh or cooked, unlike other protein sources such as soya and yeast that have to be processed or disguised in some manner before they are acceptable on the table.
“Mushrooms also contain all the essential amino acids as well as the commonly occurring non-essential amino acids and amides. Lysine, which is low in most cereals, is the most important amino acid in mushrooms,” she added.
Speaking further, she said mushrooms today are food for both the rich and the poor and they can be grown anywhere as long as the conditions for their growth and cultivation are friendly.
Giving the different species of mushrooms, Adeoye Enitan, a mushroom farmer, said that there are four main categories of mushrooms such as edible mushrooms; the ones you can eat as food; medicinal mushrooms for taking care of certain ailments; poisonous mushrooms which are deadly and the ones that are both medicinal as well as edible.
He said mushroom, as a foreign exchange earner in many developed countries, remained a thriving multi-million-dollar business in America, Europe, China and other Asian countries.
“They use it for medicinal and nutritional purposes. Most of the mushrooms we have in our supermarkets are imported. We can produce them here in large quantities, if we really want to take it as a lucrative business that it is,” he said.
Another farmer, Salami Azeez, said mushroom consumption had taken a global dimension, adding that the crop could change the financial fortune of the growers.
He said rather than depending on the old method of picking mushrooms from the wild, farmers could grow it even in the cities thereby making money from using technology to grow the crop.
Azeez noted that African mushroom remains the most sought after because of its use in the production of drugs and recommendation for the treatment of ailments such as high blood pressure, diabetes and others.
In the same vein, Olaide Ayeni, another mushroom farmer said many opportunities abound in the production of mushrooms as many hospitality industries in the country still import the product to add to their meals. He added that most big hotels in the country have mushrooms in their daily menu, but it is imported because many people have not tapped into mushroom farming in the country.
“Nigeria is a good place for mushroom business as the climate is perfect for its cultivation and it can be grown all year round, creating employment, healthy living and wealth for the farmers,” he said.
Speaking further, he said the challenge is that while it is doing well in many parts of the country, people are shying away from the fungi because they lack the materials and information they need.
Analysing its short period of growth, Ayeni stated that mushroom is a short period product, adding that farmers can start harvest within four to five weeks, while its return on investment is unbelievably shorter than many understands.
However, Roberts stated that mushroom could be substituted for maize in feed mills for fish and livestock.
According to her, feed is a major constraint to aquaculture development in developing countries like Nigeria where maize is the main carbohydrate source in fish diets which due to its over use in livestock feeds and humans consumption make it relatively expensive.
“Now we can replace maize with graded levels (0, 25, 50, 75 and 100 percent) of cultured dried whole mushroom (DCM) in fish feeds, as experiment tried and results confirmed that oyster mushroom supports growth of fingerlings.
While calling for government support, Roberts said that mushroom farming is a special area that needs to be explored by all.