The Rwanda Agriculture Development Authority (RADA) is targeting 7000 mushroom tubes per week from the current 4000.
Jeannine Umpfuyisoni in charge of mushroom project at RADA is optimistic production will increase partly because private operators have been allowed to produce mushroom tubes.
The development authority has been in charge of supplying mushroom tubes to farmers.
Despite that only 17 tonnes of mushrooms are produced annually, RADA believes that the two year project in Rwanda is a success.
“Our mission is achieved because, the demand we have from thousands of farmers indicates that they are now interested in mushroom farming which was the project’s objective,” Umpfuyisoni said.
Next year the government intends to move into transformation, conservation, and packaging for export.
With the currently 4000 mushroom tubes distributed to farmers every week, demand is said to be exceeding supply, which also indicates that mushroom growing in the country still requires heavy investments.
Currently three private players have made investments in this business and only three factories have so far been built but are also yet to be utilized.
Umpfuyisoni said that the factories are delayed to operate because they are waiting approval from Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) to use plastic bag packaging.
“Plastic bags are the only materials that can stand the high temperatures of a bout 100 degrees during sterilization,” she said.
A letter from REMA requested RADA to make specification, quantity needed, and explanations on how it will manage plastic bags to protect environment.
“We really need the authorization to have these private factories operate and also RADA because the ones got from China are finished meaning we (RADA) can not continue operating,” Umpfuyisoni added.
The modern mushroom growing project (Juncao) was borrowed from China where farmers can produce several kilogrammes of mushrooms within less than 10 days.
The old method of planting in sacks would mean a farmer had to wait for 30 days before the first harvest.
But government invested Frw120 million to purchase the machine and import the technology to start modern mushroom farming in the country.
Umpfuyisoni revealed that government is considering buying a machine for making tubes from Burundi saying that its cheaper than the one acquired from China at Frw20 million.
RADA is also set to construct a laboratory to produce Spawn, which were being imported from China. A spawn is essentially a mushroom starter which develops into a final mushroom.
Next year, the government will hand the project to private sector. Government will then shift its focus from production to monitoring and evaluation and providing technical support.
“It will not only be a solution to poverty, but also a revolution of nutritional needs in the country, it’s absurd that children still suffer from kwashiorkor,” she said.
A kilogramme of mushrooms in rural areas is traded at Frw2, 000 while in Kigali supermarkets is at Frw3000 and the price for mushroom tubes has doubled from the previous Frw150—last year.
Mushroom growing is popular in Rubavu district in the Western province, Nyagatare district, Eastern province and Musanza district in the Northern Province.