Ko Hooijmans, union branch Mushrooms LTO-Netherlands:

“The Netherlands destroyed prices in Europe”

A year ago, Ko Hooijmans, chairperson of the union branch Mushrooms of LTO-Netherlands, let out a cry of dismay in the media, complaining that the mushroom sector was under a lot of pressure due to a too low return for growers. Laseta Mushrooms from Ammerzoden, the Netherlands, was recently declared bankrupt. The company wasn’t a small player on the market. “Unfortunately, when I gave out a distress signal last year, I was once again too late,” Ko says.

Cry of distress
Once again, because multiple companies in the mushroom sector have gone bankrupt. “Since January 2018, we’ve been in talks with the major retailers of the Netherlands, and we made it known that prices given to growers for their products are too low,” Ko says. “As a result, about 20 companies in the sector have stopped in the past five years, because their returns were too low. We now have another company that didn’t make it because market prices are so bad due to the current competitive model among retailers. Prices for mushrooms shouldn’t just go up, yields should also be distributed more fairly among the various parties. The returns for mushroom growers are too low now.”

Returns necessary
After all, there’s a price tag on growing mushrooms. “The grower pays for labour, energy and materials. However, the prices received by the growers are falling too far behind to finance innovations that are necessary in the sector. In recent years, retail adjusted their prices somewhat, but it wasn’t enough. The adjusted prices are still too marginal towards growers to generate enough returns.”

Destroying prices in Europe
Throughout the Netherlands, a lot of mushrooms are exported. The low prices in the Netherlands have an effect on export mushrooms in Europe. “We recently had a meeting with European growers of mushrooms, and my colleague chairpersons have told me that they blame the Netherlands for destroying prices in Europe. That’s not fun to hear, but it’s a fact I can’t ignore. After all, prices in other parts of Europe are higher. I therefore argued for better prices in the mushrooms sector during a recent meeting with the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.”

“We regret that more and more of these cases are occurring. If things go on like this, we won’t have any mushroom production in the Netherlands in five years, and that would be very sad. There is a market for mushrooms, now we just need to get the right prices for our products.”

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