By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao 

All across the Philippines, there has been a gradual rise in the production of mushroom-based snacks as a healthy alternative to junk food, or snacks that are high in sugar or empty calorie content. 

Due to this shift in the market and a demand for wholesome goods, mushrooms have become a profitable venture for farmers who wish to make a good amount of income. Not only will they be able to supply the demand for fresh mushrooms in the market, they can also practice value-adding and create their own mushroom-based products. 

So imagine the possibilities if an entire community should engage themselves in mushroom production and processing. 

This topic is the subject of Anecita M. Troza, a Science Research Assistant of the Department of Agriculture’s Regional Field Office 13 in Caraga (DA-RFO 13), during the Caraga leg of AgriTalk 2020, held in partnership with the DA’s Agricultural Training Institute (DA-ATI) and Manila Bulletin, which was aired on the Facebook pages of ATI Caraga and Agriculture Online. 

Mushrooms are edible fungi that grow and obtain food from decaying organic matter. It is fleshy and develops either below or above ground where they may be handpicked once they reach a mature stage. 

Even though there are several kinds of mushrooms found across the globe, some of the most common varieties in the Philippines include the oyster mushroom (Pleurotus sajor caju), umbrella mushroom (Volvariella volvacea), tengang daga (Auricularia sp.), and the milky mushroom (Callocybe sp.).

Some benefits of mushrooms include environmental restoration by neutralizing toxic waste through digestive processes, serving as a natural decomposer, and providing consumers with both delicious and healthy meals. 

Mushrooms not only add flavor and texture to a dish but they are also rich in vitamins and minerals. The edible fungi is said to even contain more potassium than bananas and selenium which is an antioxidant that protects cells from damage that might lead to heart disease or cancer. 

These health benefits are what makes mushroom in-demand in markets all around the globe. In the Philippines, Troza said that 90 percent of the mushrooms are imported and the average volume of imported mushrooms per year reaches up to 50 tons.

But if local farmers should attempt to venture into mushroom production to supply the need for mushrooms, Troza said this would be possible because most species of imported mushrooms can be grown in the Philippines with temperate varieties able to be produced in artificial environments. 

Additionally, the materials needed to start mushroom production aren’t as expensive because it only requires agricultural wastes such as rice straw, sawdust, corn cobs, corn leaves, etc. 

Yet, with most opportunities, there are also some challenges that need to be faced in order to secure the success of a venture. In mushroom production, such challenges include the ever-changing market. 

Although mushrooms are used in various dishes, Troza said that producers noticed how those from older age groups are more inclined to consume the edible fungi as opposed to their younger counterparts. 

Moreover, some producers find it difficult to infiltrate the local mushroom since the delivery of fresh mushrooms to particular locations cost more and they would have to worry about spoilage. 

Fortunately, some enterprising farmers have found a way to make themselves known in the market with their mushroom products. They did so by processing the edible fungi into other products such as mushroom chips, mushroom chicharon, and even a mushroom flavor mix. 

With the right mindset and a proper understanding of their consumers, mushroom growers can create a market independent of importation. Plus, a community-based model of mushroom production and processing can open up many livelihood opportunities. 

In the next part of the article, Troza will discuss how to grow mushrooms following various methods.