Calls for better organisation of mushroom production

File pic: Mushroom growing

THE Agricultural Marketing Authority (Ama) says mushroom farming in Zimbabwe is not as well-organised as other agribusinesses, making it challenging to monitor crop production and marketing.

Mushroom cultivation has emerged as one of the nation's fastest-growing home-based agro-business ventures. A mushroom is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, usually produced above ground on soil or on its food source.

It has long been a reliable source of income for many, particularly young people and women, who either harvest it from the wild or grow it in makeshift home greenhouses.

The business has gained popularity as it enables the recycling of waste items that would otherwise contaminate the environment, such as sawdust, banana leaves, husks and dung.

“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,” Ama said in its latest report.

Zimbabwe produced 770 tonnes of mushrooms in 2018, 800 tonnes in 2019 and 830 tonnes in 2020, according to Food and Agriculture Organization Corporate Statistical Database (FAOSTAT) estimates.

According to Fortune Business Insights, the global mushroom industry is expected to increase to 24,05 million tonnes in 2028 from 15,25 million tonnes in 2021. The most popular variety worldwide is the button. The top producers of mushrooms are China, the US, Italy, the United Kindom, Germany, and India.

A survey by Ama revealed that a kilogramme (kg) of button costs between US$7 and US$10 whereas a kg of oysters costs between US$2,50 and US$5.

Zimbabwe is currently importing the bulk of its mushrooms from China and Poland to satisfy domestic demand.

“There is a ready market for ‘ground meat’ (mushroom) and currently our local production is not satisfying the local markets — that should provide enough motivation to venture into mushroom farming,” Ama said.

According to Ama, Zimbabwe has excellent climatic conditions that are favourable for particularly oyster mushrooms production.

It stated that as long as a person has the appropriate skills, mushroom manufacturing can be done regardless of age or gender. It also offers quick returns and the possibility of year-round revenue generation.

In urban environments, one can start a mushroom project with plastic sheeting growing structures in their garden, Ama said.

Materials that are easily accessible, such as corn stalks, can be used in rural regions, while spore and mushroom seed are both readily available.

The organisation indicated that while the government is working hard to achieve food security, mushroom growing remains a low-hanging fruit.

The National Development Strategy 1 says food security and nutrition are catalysts for economic revitalisation and Ama hopes mushroom production comes to the party in the national food sufficiency matrix.

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