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Is a mushroom shortage looming in Belgium?

Might there be a shortage of button mushroom in Belgium? This is the question VTM, the main commercial television station in Flanders, asked in a news broadcast report on Saturday. Due to the recent dry, hot weather, of button mushrooms expected yield fell slightly this summer. Using mushrooms in cooking is are also becoming more popular, with demand increasing. "Is the relationship between supply and demand in the mushroom sector under real pressure? And what are the causes for this decrease in yield? Belgian agricultural service, Inagro, did research into this.

"Growers cultivate their mushrooms in climate controlled areas. The unusually hot summer of 2018 should, therefore, not have affected the cultivation." Nothing could be further from the truth. Inagro surveyed a number of cultivation companies. From this, it seems that the expected yield per square meter fell by a few kilograms compared to last year.

A possible cause for this is the straw's inferior quality. Substrate preparation companies have had to make do with shorter straw. As a result, the substrate has less structure. The substrate is made up mostly of straw. This can influence the cultivation, resulting in lower yields. The quality of the straw is bound to affect the cultivation results in the upcoming season too. This year's straw is not only shorter, but less straw was also extruded per hectare. So, there is an imbalance in the supply and demand of straw. This then pushes up prices.

Is there really a shortage of mushrooms on the market?
There has been a recent evolution on company level. They have switched from growing button mushrooms to cultivating their more unusual counterparts. These include organic mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, and other exotic varieties. In this way, growers are trying to take advantage of the increasing demand for different types of mushrooms.
“Light, exotic, organic, and vegetarian products are well represented in modern day kitchens. Mushrooms fit into this picture," says Karel Desmet, who is from the Belgian town of Beveren-Leie. “The demand for button mushrooms has certainly not diminished. This, despite the shift to more specialty varieties."

Producers are still able to meet the demand for button mushrooms. They have done so by shortening their production cycles and, therefore, get higher yields. However, these limits have slowly been reached. Lower profit margins mean mushrooms farmers put off investing in the necessary expansion of their infrastructure. This could lead to a shortage of Belgian mushrooms.

See the summarised version of the VTM report.

Source: Inagro

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