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Mushroom farming could generate N1trn yearly

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By Usman Oladimeji

Cultivation of mushrooms might have significant economic and social effects.

Prof. Sami Ayodele, a plant scientist, who specialized in mushrooms, estimates that mushroom cultivation in Nigeria has the potential to generate about one trillion naira yearly if the industry is provided with adequate resources needed to flourish. Therefore, he advocated for the Federal Government to facilitate mushroom cultivation so that farmers may take up the practice as an alternative farming method and source of national income. He mentioned this on Thursday during the 22nd inaugural lecture at Abuja’s National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), titled “Mushrooms: Friends or Foes.”

Professor Ayodele of the Department of Botany in the Faculty of Sciences at NOUN posits that the government should educate and enlighten the general public about the potential for economic growth and social improvement presented by mushroom cultivation in the country. Especially in rural areas of poor countries, he said, mushroom cultivation might have significant economic and social implications given that it has the potential of providing income and work for women and young people.

Mushroom global market was worth $45.3 billion as of the end of 2020.

According to him, the mushroom sector and its value chain have the capability to generate employment for 30 million people across all skill levels, helping to alleviate the burden of unemployment among college grads, vulnerable youths, and women. He made use of China as an example, where the mushroom industry employs over 30 million people and has an estimated $1.6 billion in export value. Only 10% of this population is involved in growing mushrooms; the rest work in related industries including food and beverage production, trading and management, transportation, marketing, retailing, export, among others.

A report by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) revealed that the global demand for mushrooms has continued to increase significantly, while the market for mushrooms is huge and growing drastically. As of the end of the year 2020, the global market for mushrooms was worth approximately $45.3 billion, with China being the largest producer. Except for South Africa, Madagascar, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Algeria, and Morocco, no other African country cultivates mushrooms commercially. Ayodele noted that Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy, does not even appear on the continent’s or the world’s scales of mushroom production.

Researchers should hold frequent seminars to educate people on mushrooms.

However, he did stress the importance of being mindful when foraging for wild mushrooms, as it is easy to mistake toxic species with those that are edible. Toxins from poisonous mushrooms can cause substantial cellular damage, impact the autonomic nervous system, and even the central nervous system, as observed by Ayodele, who is also the Director in charge of the NOUN Abuja Model Study Centre (AMSC). The poisons in toxic mushrooms may cause nausea and vomiting. Ayodele also advocated for the creation of a national mushroom germplasm centre to keep records of all edible and medicinal mushrooms found across the country.

In addition, he asserted that mushroom researchers should hold frequent seminars, symposia, conferences, and workshops to educate the Nigerian people on the growing interest in mushroom farming and the role it may play in ensuring the nation’s food supply. Likewise, unemployed youth and college graduates with experience in mushroom science should be eligible for lenient loans to start their own small-scale mushroom farms. The pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria, he said, could take advantage of the country’s rich biodiversity of medicinal mushrooms.

Gov’t should expand the study beyond academic experiments.

The Vice-chancellor of NOUN, Professor Olufemi Peters, praised Ayodele’s vision and speech and pledged to create a mushroom research lab in the institution. He thus, tasked Prof. Ayodele to organize a mushroom research team to enable him to get the institution’s backing. He implored the government, especially the incoming administration, to expand the scope of the study beyond academic experiment. Professor Peters concluded by saying that the institution would always look to its professors and senior academics for guidance on the research methodology.

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