"The demand for mushrooms has exploded again in the last two weeks. It's extremely busy. We have to pull out all the stops to keep up with demand. Supermarkets sales, in particular, are very high," says Michel Lesage of Lesage Mushrooms in Belgium. "Because of the coronavirus pandemic, people are dining out less. The dismal weather also means autumn dishes and stews with mushrooms are back on the table. We expect to be hectic until after Easter."
August was slightly weaker, but production's going well again. "Cultivation isn't at the 2017/2018 level. We're, however, heading in the right direction. The dry summer considerably affected the straw used in our substrate. So this has affected production. Straw is only harvested once a year too. We, therefore, carry these problems with us for a whole year."
"We're on the right track now, though. We're busy with Christmas planning. The biggest challenge this year is to find enough hands in December. The current travel restrictions make it difficult to make plans. Not everyone wants to, or can, come to Belgium. We'll have to see what happens and take it as it comes," says Michel.
"Chestnut mushrooms are also in great demand again. Three weeks ago, this product was in decline. But in the space of a few weeks, sales have risen by 30 to 50%. Chestnut mushrooms account for 15 - 20% of sales. Years ago, that was just one percent. Consumers are increasingly starting to appreciate them."
"And that's not at the expense of white mushrooms. Chestnut mushrooms enrich the mushroom range. Prices are nicely in line with white mushrooms too. Consumption isn't yet as high as in Germany or the USA. There, chestnut mushrooms make up half the volume. It's, however, heading that way," concludes Michel.