Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala commended the success of Kabute-hang Pinoy, a community-based mushroom production project spearheaded by the Department of Agriculture’s Agri-Pinoy National Rice Program to raise rice farmers’ income through the intensive use of farm waste materials.

The Kabute-hang Pinoy project is guided by the Palayamanan, a concept that advocates diversification in rice farming.

May pera sa basura,” [There’s money in trash] said Alcala in a statement delivered by Usec. for Operations Emerson U. Palad during the project’s year-end assessment and forum in Quezon City.

This is evident in farming as shown by the emergence of different waste utilization technologies such as organic fertilizer production and bio-reactors that provide energy for lighting and cooking, he continued.

We need to expand the mushroom project, which benefited more than 100 rice farming communities throughout all the regions of the country. A group of farmers can earn additional income of roughly P 177,000 per hectare of mushroom production cycle, with as many as eight cycles a year, Usec. Palad added.

Participating in the said project are 31 DA research stations where farmers can buy spawn or mushroom planting materials. The DA stations also provide interested parties with necessary training and starter kits in mushroom growing.

By using waste materials in farms (rice straws and rice hulls), banana plantations and vegetable plots, farmers are able to grow mushrooms as additional food for family consumption.

Farmers can earn more through persistent growing, processing, and marketing of mushrooms, thereby augmenting their income.

Research studies conducted by DA-Central Luzon show mushroom is high and rich in iron and calcium, making it an ideal natural nutritional supplement for the masses.

“Ang pagpapatubo at pagbebenta ng kabute ay may taglay na kakayahan na ilagpas sa poverty-line ang marami sa mga mahihirap nating kababayan,” [Mushroom growing and marketing may alleviate poverty of most Filipinos] said Alcala.

Each member of a Tarlac-based mushroom producers’ cooperative earn P 6,000 additional income by selling mushroom fruiting bags part-time.

Because of promising income offered by mushroom growing, Mabalacat town in Pampanga has declared mushroom as its OTOP (one-town one-product).

In just one year of operation, focal persons supervising mushroom enterprises in the community have been deployed. Mushroom laboratories serving as source of breeding materials and doubles as venue for technology demonstration and processing have been established.

Projects focusing on linking mushroom producers with the market are underway. Small-scale processors and exporters requiring bulk mushroom supply are emerging.

Examples of these are Central Luzon-based companies, TPV Mushroom Food House and Food for Thoughts, which need more than 1 ton of fresh mushroom daily. One ton of mushroom produced daily is valued at P 150,000 or P 4.5 million per month.

Sec. Alcala is optimistic that mushroom will gain wider public acceptance pushing higher market demand.

In support of the  Kabute-hang Pinoy initiative, Alcala sought the regular yearly budget allocation for the project and the establishment of DA-CLIARC in Tarlac City as “National Center for Mushroom Development.”

Moving forward, a formal collaboration among DA and other agencies under the Executive branch (DepEd, DSWD, DOH, and DOST) to disseminate mushroom consumption and to conduct additional research on nutritional and medicinal benefits, will further enhance the project.

Alcala tasked the DA-Bureau of Agricultural Research to undergo further research on appropriate low-cost technologies in growing and processing mushrooms; and the DA-Agribusiness Marketing and Assistance Service to identify and develop market for mushrooms.(Marlo Asis, DA-AFID)