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Mushroom farming: Goldmine with promising bumper harvest

By Gbenga Akinfenwa

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The global mushroom cultivation market has been projected to witness significant growth, majorly due to its growing acceptability and rising demand across the world.
   
While it was estimated to account for a value of $16.7b in 2020 with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of four per cent, it has been projected to hit a value of $20.4b by 2025.

Some of the major factors fuelling its high demand include its multiple health benefits; increasing consumption level; cost-effective production; and increasing health-conscious population across the world, among others.
  
Mushrooms are fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting bodies of a fungus, typically produced above ground, on soil, fallen tree, or on its food source. They are fat-free, low in calories, and filled with vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients.
 
According to the American National Cancer Institute, its antioxidant content may help prevent lung, prostate, breast, and other types of cancer. Mushrooms can also help to make the brain healthy.

Reports have it that mushroom cultivation in Europe and Asia, particularly India and China is growing gradually as an alternative source of income for many people, while some African countries are also toeing this line.
  
But while other countries are tapping into the opportunities this product offers, only a few Nigerian farmers are embracing the goldmine, as that line of agribusiness has been constantly snubbed for too long.
   
In Nigeria, though it is an essential vegetable with medicinal value, the produce regularly grows in the wild like a weed, with only a small fraction of farmers properly cultivating and harvesting it for food and commercial purposes.

Although there are several types of mushrooms – button, oyster, shiitake, maitake, nameko, enoki, mane, straw, and shimji, among others, not all the varieties are edible, as some are poisonous in nature.
 
Experts claim that the product is in high demand in the food market and is usually recommended by doctors and nutritionists. It was also learnt that it is one of the most sought after vegetables by most hotels and restaurants where it’s used as a delicious addition to local meals and intercontinental dishes because of its rich nature.


 
According to the National Farmers Information Service (NAFIS), Nigeria produces 300 tonnes of mushrooms yearly, against a demand of 1,200 tonnes, leaving a deficit of 900 tonnes.

Stakeholders are of the opinion that the product will enjoy massive patronage locally and in the international market if more farmers engage in its cultivation, as the product can be dried and exported as a cash crop to key mushroom markets like the United States, India, and United Kingdom, among others.
   
A mushroom farmer based in Niger State, Qudus Haruna, who described mushroom farming as one of the most profitable agribusinesses in the country, said as Nigeria is abundantly blessed with the dark loamy soil that is best suitable for its cultivation, if well cultivated it will serve as another money-spinner for the country.
  
“Mushrooms are easy to grow indoors, especially because they don’t require light. Cremini, enoki, maitake, portobello, oyster, shiitake, and white button mushrooms can all be grown indoors, but each type has specific growing needs.

  
“Mushrooms can also be grown in a garden; they can tolerate some light, but the spot you choose should stay mostly dark or in low light — cool, and humid environments. Most mushrooms grow best in temperatures between 55 and 60°F.”
   
The Chief Executive Officer of ChiTola Farms Limited, Chi Tola, who linked the apathy in the cultivation of mushrooms to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, said more farmers are beginning to explore its cultivation. 
  
She said: “COVID-19 of course is the obvious reason a lot of things happened to farmers. Fragile crops like mushrooms need daily attention and many farmers couldn’t give them that last year, so of course when you don’t cultivate or the chain is broken once, it takes 10 times the effort to get back. But this year, a lot of people are going into this aspect of farming. Some are farming for home use and a lot of others commercially.”

  


While describing mushroom farming as a goldmine that Nigeria is yet to tap into, she said there is a need for proper training for any farmer before delving into it. “Mushroom is not like other crops. To go commercial, you will require some capital and training. This will help you determine how far to go and which aspect to venture into.”
 
“If one surmounts funding challenge, the other major challenge you are likely to face is skilled labour. The National Association of Mushroom Farmers has made the issue of input easy, there are inputs now, but skilled labour is still an aspect we need to tackle. ChiTola Farms is starting training of personnel and will be recruiting them for farms that will require their services.”
  
She added that the usage of sawdust for cultivation is the simplest and almost only viable commercial means of cultivation presently.

On his part, the Managing Director – Agro Heights Farms Nigeria Limited, Mr. Seyi Ogunneye, said the mushroom industry in Nigeria has N50b net worth.

He said the potential of the agribusiness is quite positive, adding that with the value addition that is currently witnessed from the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), there is a great future for mushroom farming in Nigeria.

“Some of the challenges the industry is facing include dearth of skilled labour; funding; and clear cut requirements for growers for certifications by the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).”
  
He said for new farmers to join the mushroom farming, “firstly, a mushroom farmer has to identify where in the mushroom value chain he/she will like to come in (cultivation, processing or production of mushroom inputs). When that has been established, mentorship/training will be a great asset to the farmer so as to gain hands-on practical experience before venturing.”

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SCOA boss hails Unity Bank, others for supplying N15.5bn trucks, equipment to Julius Berger

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Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of SCOA Nigeria Plc, Dr. Massad Boulos has commended Unity Bank Plc and other banks for facilitating a credit facility of N15.5billion for the importation and supply of 33 MAN Platform Trucks and equipment to construction giant, Julius Berger Plc.

The equipment is to be deployed for the construction of the 380km Abuja-Kaduna-Kano roads.

“I commend Unity Bank, their MD and the members of the Executive Management; and the entire team of banks who have worked closely with us on this project.

“The partnership with Unity Bank and the other banks is like no other considering the parties involved especially SCOA Nigeria and Julius Berger”, he said.

Unity Bank advanced the largest sum of N4.24 billion for SCOA Equipment, which is a portion of the N17 billion total line of credit that the Bank extended to both SCOA Motors and SCOA Equipment.

The other seven Banks – Heritage, Zenith, Providus, Wema, UBA, Union and Coronation Merchant Banks – pulled the total sum to facilitate the deal to be deployed for the construction of roads across the country.

Of the 33 trucks that the total sum covered, 16 trucks were delivered during the first phase and handed over to Julius Berger. The second phase, which will see to the delivery of the remaining 17 trucks will be executed next month.

At the hand over to Julius Berger, the Managing Director/CEO of Unity Bank, Mrs. Tomi Somefun stated that the involvement of Unity Bank in the project financing deal was in line with the Bank’s strategic business objective to redistribute resources and channel funds to critical sectors of the economy.

“We looked at the strategic importance of this project and how such infrastructure could contribute to stimulating economic activity and decided that Unity Bank must play its part.

“Unity Bank will continue to provide support to such projects as we have been doing in other critical sectors of the economy such as agriculture,” she said.

Somefun was represented at the ceremony by Mr. Wale Ogunride, Directorate Head, Lagos and South West Zone, Unity Bank.

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Unity Bank boosts capacity building on Blue Economy, empowers 3,000 girls

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No fewer than three thousand girls drawn from Senior Secondary Schools across Nigeria have benefitted from a 3-day capacity building initiative on maritime commerce and National Virtual Maritime Quiz powered by Unity Bank Plc.

The initiative, which focused on Information Communication Technology, ICT, maritime transportation and logistics ecosystem, was hosted by Ocean Ambassadors Foundation to promote the participation of Indigent Girl-Child in maritime commerce.

Unity Bank partnered the programme as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives targeted at the education sector and to draw attention to the imperatives of training the girl-child to participate actively in the relevant sectors of the economy.

This is coming against the backdrop of the negative impact of COVID-19 on the education sector which has affected millions of girls across Nigeria, resulting in “many girls being unable to return to schools and many others becoming child brides,” according to a recent report by the Economist.

The programme coincided with the International Day of the Girl-Child which was marked to highlight how “the pandemic has accelerated digital platforms for learning, earning and connecting, while also highlighting girls’ diverse digital realities”.

Unity Bank Managing Director/CEO, Mrs Tomi Somefun represented by the Chief Customer Service Officer, Mrs Titilayo Abraham officially opened the event.

She said: “Unity Bank has maintained its commitment to supporting the girl child by supporting several advocacy initiatives and investing in the education sector.

“The National Maritime Quiz is yet another opportunity to contribute to the movement to encourage, educate and empower the Girl-Child to participate in the economy while driving access to education.
“We commend the Ocean Ambassadors Foundation for their initiatives aimed at bridging the gender gap in the ICT, maritime, transportation, and logistics sectors in Nigeria.”

Unity Bank has in time past demonstrated commitment to supporting the education sector, especially for initiatives targeted at children.

One of the Bank’s flagship initiatives – One Minute Genius (OMG) and others such as Unity Bank Spelling B Competition, One Day CEO, are annual educational platforms of the Bank aimed at boosting financial literacy among Nigerian children.

Ocean Ambassadors Foundation commended Unity Bank, noting that the sensitization for the Girl-Child to take advantage of career opportunities in the ICT and maritime cannot be over-emphasized.

“This also amplifies the Global Advocacy of the Sustainable Development Goal’s 4, 5, and 14. Gender equality and women empowerment require deliberate transformative shifts, new technological solutions and integrated approaches”, the group said.

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MTN ‘Extremely Sorry’ Over Network Outage

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One of Nigeria’s largest mobile telecommunications companies, MTN, has apologised for its service failures over the weekend.

Many MTN subscribers had been unable to make phone calls or access the Internet on Saturday.

“We are extremely sorry for the trouble you have faced in accessing our network,” MTN said in a statement posted on its Facebook page on Sunday.

“We understand how important remaining connected is for your personal and business needs and your frustration is completely justified.

“We are working tirelessly to restore all connection, as we have also made some progress. Kindly restart your phone if you’re still experiencing a downtime.”

Later, MTN said its “network is now restored.”

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