Sprouting oyster mushroom. A kilo of oyster mushroom goes for between Sh400 and Sh600 in the market.
Victor Kyalo, a mushroom farmer from Kathioko, Machakos County is expecting to double his income to Sh600,000 during this dry season by selling his produce direct to the market rather than via middle men who pay less by Sh50 reducing his profit by half.
According to mushroom market price trends by National Farmers Information Service (NAFIS), a kilo of mushroom fetches between Sh400 and Sh600 depending on the varieties but middlemen pay farmers Sh350 per kilogram denying farmers their full profit.
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“Last year when I harvested my mushrooms for the first time a broker in Nairobi promised me a good market only to offer Sh350 per kilo after transporting the produce to him,” said Victor Kyalo.
Kyalo uses water from his 60-foot dug well to keep his mushrooms growing during this dry season. He ferries his produce to Nairobi to look for a bigger market through public transportation at Sh300 per trip.
“This is the second time I am planting this type of mushrooms. I planted five litres of spawns during last year’s November to December short rains and got Sh250, 000 after selling the crops in Nairobi but I have increased to 10 litres of spawns this time round to double my harvest,” said Kyalo.
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He learnt about mushroom farming from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) having paid to Sh10, 000 for a three day training session last year and he has since ventured in oyster mushroom farming having been encouraged by the first harvest.
He is using wheat straws as substrate and sand to grow the mushrooms in his 15x20 metres grass-thatched mud house. Since mushrooms have 80 to 90 per cent water content hence they need humid environment to thrive, sand helps Kyalo to retain water for a long time after sprinkling.
“There is many uses of water here and the little water we have especially this dry season must be spent well, that is why I use sand to moderate water lose as it keeps the room wet for a long time thus I have to use less water,” he said.
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Mushroom house are supposed to be sprinkled with water throughout the day but Kyalo does this only three times a day, in the morning before sunrise, midday and in the evening after sunset. This he says keeps the room between 18 to 21 degrees temperature enough for the substrate to start colonizing and further sprouting of the mushroom.
He is now looking for serious buyers just before harvesting begins, about mid next month to avoid middle men whom he says denied him his full profit at a time he was expecting better sales.
He expects to harvest his mushrooms for a period of one month.
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Button mushrooms are the popular type grown in Kenya but oyster mushroom production is readily picking up because it is easy to grow, has higher yields and has more nutritional value than button according to NAFIS. Its low production cost makes it appealing to small farmers like Kyalo.
Kenya produces 500 tonnes per annum of mushroom against an annual demand of 1200 tons both in hotels and home consumption. This makes mushroom farmers confidence of finding market for their produce.
Victor Kyalo can be reached on +254708486882