Fresh mushroom sales set a new record in the 2017-18 season. ( The Packer staff )

While overall production of mushrooms in the U.S. was slightly down in the 2017-18 season, sales hit an all-time high for the crop, at $1.23 billion, buoyed by per-pound increases across the board, for fresh and processed, agaricus and specialty mushrooms.

Total mushroom production was 917 million pounds in 2017-18, down 2% from the previous season, but with average prices rising 3 cents a pound for the overall crop, the $1.23 billion represents a 1% increase from the past season, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual mushroom report, released Aug. 21.

The percentage of mushrooms that went to the fresh market — 91% — is the highest since the USDA began reporting on the crop in 1966, when overall production was much lower (under 155 million pounds), and 75% of the crop went to processors.

Fresh agaricus sales (white button/portabello/crimini) averaged $1.32 a pound, a one-cent increase, and processed agaricus markets rose from about 67 cents a pound to 73.6 cents a pound.

Specialty mushrooms, the bulk of which are grown for the fresh market, saw average prices across the U.S. rise from $3.86 a pound last season to $4.06 in 2017-18. The value of the specialty mushroom crop rose from $92.6 million two years ago to $105.7 in 2017-18, according to the report.

Agaricus production was 891 million pounds, of which 187 million pounds were brown mushrooms (crimini/portabello). Specialty mushroom production was 27.4 million pounds, a slight decrease from the previous year.

Organic mushrooms continue to see steep growth, with sales at about 10% of the overall crop. Of the 128 million pounds certified as organic, only 68% were marketed as organic, but that’s still a 17% increase over the previous season. And while the mushroom industry has seen the number growers shrink — 19 fewer specialty growers in two years and 22 fewer agaricus growers in the past 10 years — organic producers added four to their number in the past year, and at 80 growers, they represent 26% of the 307 growers in the U.S., according to the report.