By G9ija

The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) yesterday said the country could significantly improve on its foreign exchange (forex) through investment in mushroom production.

Its Executive Director, Mr Olusegun Awolowo, who spoke during a capacity building workshop organised by NEPC for members of the National Mushroom Growers, Processors and Marketing Association of Nigeria (NAM-GP-MAN) in Enugu,  said the country, having been blessed with the right climate and ecological conditions to support mushroom cultivation, could be a major player in global mushroom production.

He said the country could not afford to ignore mushroom production as its value had continued to significantly increase in the international market.

The executive director said the production of mushroom in 2018 stood at 8,993,280 tons with China accounting for 46 per cent of the output.

He said the production of mushroom in Africa within the same period stood at 28,767 tons and contributed mainly by South Africa, Madagascar, Morocco, Algeria, Zimbabwe and Tunisia.

“The global market for mushroom is also huge and growing exponentially. The market is estimated at $45.3 billion in 2020 and projected to reach $72.5 billion by 2027. The growing market for mushroom is due to the rising global awareness for healthy food and preferences towards vegan foods,’’ he said.

Awolowo said the foregoing had made mushroom highly preferred as a protein, vitamin and mineral-rich substitute of meat.

“Nigeria is blessed with the right climatic and ecological conditions to support mushroom cultivation.

“Therefore, it is important for the operators in the industry to leverage on the natural advantages to become a key global player in the market place.

“To succeed in this pursuit requires the adoption of good agricultural practices, which include general farm operations, packing activities, storage, transportation, traceability and others,’’ he said.

Awolowo said mushroom had become a sought-after food consumed in different forms because of its rich nutritional and medicinal value.

Earlier, the National President, NAM-GP-MAN, Chief Michael Awumo said gone were the days when mushroom was regarded as food for the poor in rural communities.

Amuwo said mushroom could be used to produce bread, cake, pie and others.

He added that the association was desirous of contributing to the growth of the edible.

“We want to use the mushroom to empower our women and youths. The mushroom revolution could end restiveness,’’ he said.

Also speaking, the Southeast Regional Coordinator of NEPC, Mr Arnold Jackson encouraged the association to take advantage of the current diversification policy of the Federal Government to improve the mushroom value chain.

Jackson said NEPC was open and willing to assist mushroom farmers in any way possible.

Mushroom is one of the fascinating fungi classified as a vegetable and widely considered to be edible and constitutes an important ingredient of various cuisines across the globe.