Mushroom demand builds as business costs rise

01/11/2013 10:39:00 AM
Tom Burfield

The action was taken after a number of shipments of processed mushrooms from China were detained by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because of pesticide contamination, she said.

The Chinese firms can’t export to the U.S. until the problem is corrected.

Imports of processed mushrooms to the U.S. were down 80% during September and October compared with the first eight months of the year, she said.

“A reduction in imports has a positive effect on domestic prices for the grower, for mushrooms sold in the fresh market or going to the processor, since there’s more competition for both products,” Phelps said.

Phillips Mushroom Farms, Kennett Square, Pa., anticipates solid sales, since consumers who discovered mushrooms in various dishes at their favorite restaurants now are preparing them at home, said Kevin Donovan, national sales manager.

“They’re finding how easy they are (to prepare) and what the health benefits are,” Donovan said.

Fall was not a good time for wild mushrooms, however.

“It’s been a terrible season for wild mushrooms,” said Bob Engel, chef liaison for Gourmet Mushrooms Inc., Sebastopol, Calif.

“Chanterelles and porcinis have both been scarce, with poor quality and high prices.”

That’s been good for Gourmet Mushrooms, however, since its product is all grown indoors in controlled-atmosphere rooms.

“The weather doesn’t affect us,” Engel said. “We control humidity, temperature and everything else that we need to.”

Ponderosa Mushrooms & Specialty Foods, Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, did not have good luck with its 2012 chanterelle program, said Joe Salvo, president.

“Because of the high price and the short supply of the chanterelles, our entire retail program has pretty much been shelved on chanterelles this year,” he said in early December.

The problem was lack of rain from central British Columbia to Northern California, which he said saw its driest weather in 100 years.

Ponderosa finally started its harvest in late October, six weeks later than usual. The chanterelle harvest typically ends by Dec. 18.


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