Man’s attention is usually attracted to mushrooms by the unusual shape of their fruitbodies which suddenly ap-pear after rains in striking quantities in fields and wood-lands. Edible mushrooms like Pleurotus are known to be among the largest of fungi.
Mushroom cultivation serves as the most efficient and economically viable biotechnology for the conversion of lignocellulose waste materials into high quality protein food and this will naturally open up new job opportunities especially in rural areas .
Edible mushrooms like Agaricus sppand Pleurotus oastreatus are commercially produced and sold in mar-kets in Asia, America and Europe. In Nigeria, indigenous mushroom are still hunted for in forests and farmland for sale. The need for commercial production of all edible mushroom in Nigeria cannot be over emphasized in view of its potential contribution to agricultural produc-tion and as a source of cheap protein.
Nigeria is richly endowed with good quality mushroom like Pleurotus and
Agaricus genera which should be mass-produced for lo-cal consumption as well as for international market. Since the above species are seasonal and in short supply, com-mercial production is therefore, necessary to ensure their availability all the time.
Lack of awareness of the required information and poor enlightenment on several possibilities and advantages of mushrooms are two of the major problems in the marketing of mushrooms locally. The relative availability, and cheap and cultivable nature of edible mushrooms especially as good replacements for other protein sources in developing countries however suggest its promotion in the local diets and commodity trade, and the agricultural economy. The growing local (commercial) production and market for mushrooms also, offer a sound prospect – in terms of increased consumption to augment or improve protein intake, and for possible subsequent overseas trade in the commodity . In Nigeria, the commercial production and trade in mushroom is still at its infancy. This state can be attributed to the poor and undeveloped nature of demand for edible, local and cultivated exotic mushrooms.
Empirical evidence reveals that the consumption of local mushroom was high among the respondents . Most of the local producers however maintained trade relationship with specific buyers and high-end consumers. Results indicated that 80.8 percent of the respondents bought mushroom directly or were supplied by commercial producers. Respondents also reported that mushrooms were not readily available in the grocery shops or commodity markets – as commonly found with staple agricultural commodities in Nigeria. About 35percent of the respondents in Lagos State bought from the market place. The implication thus is that mushroom is still predominantly procured directly from the few commercial producers (i.e. contract production and sales prevailed), and transactions take place largely outside the local staple commodities’ markets – notwithstanding the proximity of the consumers to major urban markets and commercial centres in the study area.
Mushroom is typically regarded as poor man’s meat in particular in the Yorubaland. Nonetheless, there is still some preference expressed among the respondents for mushroom over meat – notwithstanding the relatively higher contingent price put on mushroom.
Evidence from the price experiment shows that as the price per kg of mushroom decreases, the opportunity cost of consuming beef meat, in place of mushroom, increases . Consequently, the opportunity cost of showing preference for mushroom over meat decreases. Mushroom can thus be expected to be more preferred as the price per unit decreases. Price factor is thus quite pertinent in the expressed consumer preference between mushroom and beef. The price for mushroom, in turn, is affected by several factors including regional preferences, the species and quality, the season, whether sold fresh or consumed, whether sold for wholesale distribution or to end consumers .
To further develop the industry and to improve local demand, there exists, inter alia, a need to ensure a reasonable balance between the prices the consumers are willing to pay and the prices that the producers are prepared to sell the commodity. This is especially so, in the face of other competing protein sources including beef meat
Mushroom, as a tradable commodity, behaved like a normal good with the likelihood of demand (proxied by the proportion of potential patrons) decreasing as unit price increases . The implication is that mushroom can only compete with meat (beef) if adequate awareness on its advantages is created, and if the market price is appreciably lower compared to that for the meat substitute (i.e. beef).
The overt preference for exotic species notwithstanding, there is still a lack of awareness among local consumers. Empirical evidence shows that majority of the consumers consumed mushroom occasionally. This is a problem that should be tackled by advertisement and awareness creation in the rural and commercial centres in Nigeria. From the analysis, it was discovered that those who consumed mushrooms (local and exotic) were really not aware of the advantages of mushroom diets. The same could be said of those who reported psychological or other innate reasons for not consuming mushrooms. From the research, although about 68percent of the respondents claimed to have good knowledge of the culinary and medicinal advantages of mushroom consumption, further tests on their knowledge scope and extent of awareness especially on the specific advantages of mushroom over meats betrayed their ignorance in some respect.
The enumerated advantages of mushroom over meat (beef) especially in several cogent areas including as a proven and veritable source of more vitamins, more minerals, low cholesterol, and the consumer’s preference in terms of texture, taste and flavour, ranked it higher than meats even among the respondents. But the wrong choice by sizeable proportions of the consumers in two of the areas of advantage (i.e. better protein content and texture) of meat over mushroom, and the indifference shown by some consumer’s (between mushroom and beef) tend to suggest that some consumers are still ignorant of the intrinsic (i.e. culinary and medicinal) advantages of mushroom.
As such, awareness needs to be created, stressing the advantages and other beneficial qualities of its consumption. Such information can be provided (as for the current, daily poultry eggs consumption drive in Nigeria) through sponsored radio jingles and television advertisements, billboards, and distribution of food and nutrition leaflets, posters and stickers. This is more so, since majority of the respondents are educated.
Other problems identified by the consumers include non-availability of the product during off-season period, and the local ‘taboo’ about direct (cash) purchases as opposed to collection of wildlings as a ‘free good’. As for other non-timber forest products, mushroom consumption (and hence industry), is shaped largely by local market and institution / belief system, resource abundance (or seasonality), and the relative level of (economic) development .
Value addition by processing and canning can solve the problem of seasonality in availability. Local belief system and individual consumers’ psychology most times spur posers such as: ‘How will I use my money to buy mushroom? I was brought up with it collected in the wild, and so on’. This tends to suggest re-orientation for high-end market creation for the product especially in major commercial centres.