Saturday, 7 January 2012

Mushroom farming: A Rescue for cash strapped young entrepreneurs in Kenya

Mushroom growing is among the most profitable farming businesses in Kenya today. Mushrooms are a delicacy and a health food which is low in calories, high in vegetable protein, chitin, iron, zinc, fiber, essential amino acids vitamins and minerals.

Mushroom farming is a cheap source of income that generates returns in a very short period. Mushrooms give high returns on initial investments. The requirements to start the business are Spawn or the seed, a room, Substrate or the soil substitute. Mushroom growing requires very little capital to start and with KSH30, 000, one can grow oyster mushrooms according to mushroom growing expert.Button Variety's investment requirements are higher with matching returns. The incubation period for mushroom mycelium is one month and the harvesting period is three months. A room with 3 x 3 meter dimensions can hold 1000 mushroom sets on small polythene bags.

Each bag can produces at least 400 grams of mushrooms. A kilogram of oyster mushrooms sold locally costs KSH 400. If 1000 bags each yield 400 grams and a kilogram of mushrooms sells for Sh400 the total revenue will be Sh160, 000, minus packaging costs of Sh40 a pack.

Contrary to other farm enterprises, land is not a requirement in mushroom growing. Moreover the demand for mushrooms in Kenya is far much greater than the supply. The country imports additional product from China in order to satisfy the market demand. This means there is a big growth potential in mushroom growing. The uptake of mushroom growing by the farmers is slow due to scarcity of spawns, making the product expensive.

Oyster and shiitake mushroom varieties are recommended for beginners in mushroom growing. They have a ready market in Kenya and can grow in many substrates, on small scale with moderate investment. Oyster and button varieties are rich in nutrients while Shitake and Reishi have medicinal properties. You will need training on how to prepare substrates for mushroom growing and your agricultural advisor comes in hardy. Alternatively, you can purchase ready made sterilized substrate from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology situated at Juja, 36 km northeast of Nairobi, along Thika Nairobi -Superhighway. Moi University at Chepkoilel Kenya sells hybrid mushroom spawns.

Fresh mushrooms make delicious stews which are taken with staple foods as an alternative to meat. Mushrooms can be value added by making mushroom-based porridge flour that is gradually gaining acceptance in the market. Mushrooms can also be made into beverages like reishi coffee and tea. These are beverages based on the reishi mushroom which is known to be medicinal. Stakeholders in the mushroom commodity value chain have formed the Kenya mushroom growers association with an objective of strengthening the value chain, and linking the growers with the market and spawn producers, as well as to one another. This will help to develop thriving business environment that continues to attract more members into mushroom growing. Horticultural Crops Development Authority has stepped up mushroom consumer awareness for a shift in feeding habits because farmers need to be assured of the market.