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    Mushroom farmers in Kenya stand a chance to benefit from the growing demand of the fungi globally, thanks to a growing health conscious population that values mushroom for its nutrition. The mushroom global market is projected to reach $50m by year 2019 up from $29m in 2013, according to last year’s report by Market and markets.
    The report shows that while most mushrooms are produced in Asian countries, mainly China and India, most of it is consumed domestically, leaving a mere 15 and 18 per cent for the hungry export market. The two countries produce up to 100,000 tonnes per year.
    Increase in global consumption
    There is a huge demand for both Oyster, Button and Shitake varieties, especially in Europe, where countries like Russia have recorded almost a 100 per cent increase in consumption rate. According to the Food Market report, the mushroom consumption rate in Russia jumped from 1.2kg per person in 2007 to 2.5kg in 2015. Other countries that recorded increased consumption rate include Netherlands, Switzerland and France.
    Yet, even as Kenyan Mushroom farmers salivate at the international market that is offering an average of $13 per kilo for common types like button and even more for rare types like Shitake, they still have a pending duty to satisfy the growing local market.
    High local demand
    Statistics from the National Farmers Information Service (NAFIS) show that the country produces an average of 500tonnes of mushrooms annually against the consumption of 1200 tonnes, forcing huge consumers like five star hotels to import. According to NAFIS, mushroom prices have been on rise in the country since the begging of the millennium with a kilo of button mushroom retailing at up to Sh700.
    Mushrooms are rich source of nutrition because of being fat-, cholesterol-, and gluten-free and very low in sodium content.

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    One small-scale farmer in Kiambu County is tapping tens of thousands of shillings flowing from the shifting demand for strawberry flavoured foods to the actual fruits.

    George Kinuthia started by propagating strawberry seedlings for customers. But with time, he noticed the gap in the market as supermarkets, hotels and individuals started showing appetite for these fruit.

    Supermarkets are selling the product packaged fresh while high-end hotels serve it in salads.

    “Individuals and supermarkets were asking for these fruits. I only had seedlings to supply to growers. I had no reason to reject cash from direct market. That is how I delved into double trading,” he said.

    Worth returns

    With drip irrigation, Kinuthia continuously supplies the fruit, which he says is all season loving.

    “I have never run short of market. With constant supply of water and other inputs, every bush yields between one and three kilogrammes in a month or so,” he says.

    On average, a kilogramme of strawberry, he says, fetches Sh150; but when demand is high and supply from other competitors is low, he increases the cost.

    With about 1,000 bushes on less than one acre, Kinuthia gets a gross income of at least Sh225,000 in three months.

    Quick maturity

    Strawberries start yielding after three months. Productivity of the bushes increase as they mature.

    The fruit does well both in open fields and greenhouses, with the latter being most preferred.

    A greenhouse is best best because frost and hailstones affect the leaves, which are important in production of the fruit. maturing fruits can also be washed down.

    Birds are the main pests of strawberries.

    “In an open field, a farmer will be required to buy nets that cover the entire field. This would wade away the birds,” he said.

    Juice and jam

    Besides the demand for the fresh fruits, Kinuthia says, other farmers are jumping into jam and juice churning.

    Strawberry is a preferred flavour that most producers such as yoghurt and chewing gum producers a are riding on to make more sales.

    Apart from propagation of strawberries, Kinuthia also raises seedlings of hybrid yellow capsicum and tomatoes.

    He sells the strawberry seedlings at Sh30.

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