Retailers can expect shortages of mushrooms for the next six to 10 weeks, as mushroom production catches up to shifts in demand brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mushrooms grow in six- to 12-week cycles, according to the American Mushroom Institute, which includes a period to preparing compost and a period of two or three growth cycles, supporting a maximum of three harvest.
Growers adapted production cycles to the COVID-19 conditions in March, affecting availability now.
“When the coronavirus hit, no one could have foreseen the markets’ unpredictability,” Rachel Roberts, president of the American Mushroom Institute, said in a statement on mushroom availability. “Mushroom growers made rapid decisions to sustain the health of their businesses and to protect the industry’s workforce in unprecedented and uncertain circumstances.”
Despite that six- 10-week period of shortages, “growers are working diligently to fill retail customer demand, and we expect more farms to come online and ramp up production,” as more states lift stay-at-home orders, Roberts said in the statement.
In mid-March, mushroom farms saw a significant drop in mushroom orders, and many had coolers full of product that had to be donated or thrown out. Growers were also forced to limit workers on-site, leading to cuts or delays in plantings, according to the statement.
After the immediate drop in demand, consumers who were cooking at home drove an increase in retail sales.
“Mushroom farms sometimes source from other growers to fill shortages; but because some were forced to reduce or delay the growing cycle, and because many farms with a majority of restaurant and foodservice customers had either shut down completely or scaled back to a negligible amount, it is still proving difficult to source mushrooms to fill shortages today,” Roberts said in the statement.
To see how the pandemic is affecting other fruits and vegetables, see The Packer's COVID-19 webpage.