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Harvesting, peat and straw are the largest issues for mushroom industry

According to the GEPS (European Mushroom Producers Group), EU countries produced about 1.07 million tons of cultivated mushrooms in 2022. Being in the middle of European mushrooms industry, UMDIS Mushroom Information Agency sees that this year (2023) is a bit easier for many producer.

“We can expect that the forecast in the end of 2023 year will be even much more colourful. According to turnkey suppliers for the industry, all of them now are busy with new projects, on all continents; so, the industry goes on,” says Inna Ustylovska, director of PR for UMDIS Mushroom Information Agency. “Just to be clear; 2023 isn’t an easy season. However, this year mushroom producers can concentrate on mushroom production, not trying to survive every time due to cost of production increase and such.”

The prices for electricity and gas more or less stabilized and now mushroom producers aren’t expecting that these costs will jump three to five times higher, as they did in 2022. Ustylovska states there are still enough challenges for mushroom growers to deal with at the moment: “The production cost went up, but has remained stable enough compared to 2022. What is painful for mushroom producers now is peat, which is used for casing soil, an essential resource for mushroom production, straw, another essential resource which is used for compost making, a lack of people for mushroom picking and the banning of Prochloraz.”

Mushrooms farmers being pushed away from using peat is another worry the growers have, Ustylovska explains. “The European Union demands mushroom cultivation to be eco, which means not using peat, so casing soil can disappear. This will make mushroom production impossible. Mushroom producers are now scared that peat will be banned at a moment’s notice. Yes, in Poland, Ireland as well as in USA there are trials of making and using casing soil based on other resources, but as the Polish largest producer of casing recently told UMDIS: ‘We can make casing soil from lots of things instead of peat – from paper, from coconut fibre and such, but it’s so hard to have the same high yield on such casing.’ Straw is used to make compost on which mushrooms are grown. Buying straw is always challenging in many countries, but at the moment some of them really struggle.”

The third issue, which according to Ustylovska is possibly the main problem of mushroom industry everywhere, is mushroom picking. “Mushrooms are very delicate, so for fresh market they must be picked by people, no machine harvesting. Employees become more and more expensive, and in many countries it isn’t even about the money, people just don’t want such a boring job. As we reported during the Mushroom Days exhibition in May, lots of picking innovations as picking robots, tilting shelves, drawer system, conveyor and picking trolleys were presented. However, people are still needed and the only thing you can do is to train them to work more efficiently. Finally there’s the banning of Prohloraz in Europe from November. Mushroom farms are enough worried about the quality of mushrooms they can receive without it.”

Although demand for classic mushrooms hasn’t really changed over the past few years, Ustylovska states that there has been a lot of movement when it comes to exotic mushrooms: “Demand for exotic mushrooms, such as shiitake, eryngii, maitake, enoki, pom-pom and others, continuously, but slowly grows. Recently we visited one of the eco-supermarkets in Germany, and we found only exotic mushrooms and brown champignons, not the usual white ones at all. That shows the answer to the demand. Our agency often travels and monitors mushrooms in the supermarkets in different countries. In all shops, even including discounters, we see various exotic mushrooms on the shelves, so demand is growing for these mushrooms for sure.”

Ustylovska expects there will be more exotic mushroom cultivation starting in Europe. “There are plans to start a large shiitake production now in Spain, on Chinese imported substrate logs. European exotic mushroom production is developing smoothly, we have got good producers of European substrate in Netherlands, in Spain, Poland as well as in other countries. However, according to our sources, there’s a large lobby of Chinese shiitake logs` producers, trying to set up as more exotic, shiitake mostly, farms in Europe as they can. We’ve heard stories about small button mushroom farms changing to exotic farms, running from the trend of globalisation, which pushes small button mushroom farms from the market. So becoming an exotic mushroom farm is the solution for them.”

Source: FreshPlaza

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