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Kenya: Mushroom farmers to benefit from value addition

Small scale mushroom growers in Central Kenya have resorted to value addition to improve the marketability of their produce in a highly competitive market. Profits from sale of mushrooms has been low due to lack of significant market for the product. This has been attributed to continued perception that the product is for the rich. A kilogramme of mushrooms now costs between Sh300 to Sh600, a price that is considered to be beyond the reach of most Kenyans. “The potential market is high but the information is lacking,” said Mr Nguyo Gitonga, a mushroom farmer in Nyeri town.

Mr Nguyo reckons that cultural bias that advise against the consumption of mushrooms is also to blame for the low consumption in most parts of the country.
To beat these biases, Mr Nguyo and his counterparts have resorted to making mushroom-based porridge flour that is slowly gaining acceptance in the market.
“People don’t want to take the fresh mushrooms but are consuming it when sold to them in processed forms,” Mr Ngunyo said. In Central Kenya most farmers are growing the Shitake mushrooms known for their medicinal values and Oyster mushrooms that are rich in nutrients. These are ground and mixed with amaranth and sorghum to make the porridge mix. Mr Justus Wambua of Biosafe technologies, a mushrooms growing firm, said his company turned to value addition to make the product acceptable.

Mushrooms powder can either be extracted as active compounds for their medicinal value or used to make mushroom based products. Among the products that the company has been making is reishi coffee and tea. These are beverage products based on the medicinal the reishi mushroom. The mushroom-based drink is targeted at health conscious consumers seeking healthy foods. It is being marketted as an alaternative to herbal teas that are currently enjoying growing demand in the world market. Processing also increases the shelf life of the perishable product. Drying extends the shelf life of fresh mushrooms from three days to three months.
Mr Wambua said aggressive marketing of value added products had helped improve the growers’ incomes.

Most farmers are however still facing a number of challenges, including the lack of equipment to process and pack the value added products. Besides, the farmers lack the means to advertise their products in order to incrase awareness in the market.
“To sell the products through supermarkets, one needs a bar code which costs Sh16,000 and an annual fee of Sh6,000 making it unaffordable for many small farmers,” adds Mr Nguyo. Lack of regulations in the mushroom industry has also meant that the challenges facing farmers do not receive the needed attention.


Publication date: 4/14/2008


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