Currently, the Flemish mushroom sector is facing a number of challenges, including a major labor shortage. The sector traditionally works a lot with Polish workers but, due to economic growth in that nation, it’s increasingly difficult to find workers there.
Nancy Pyck of Inagro’s mushroom cultivation pilot centre: “Two major problems at the moment are the sharply increased cost of raw materials and the tightness of the labor market.”
The Flemish region used to have 137 growers in the 1990’s, but that number has dwindled down to just 30. Cultivation is concentrated in West Flanders and Limburg. And although there has been an increase in scale in the sector, overall production has dropped. 45,000 tons of mushrooms were produced in 1996, but just 28,000 tons were produced a few years ago.
There is also a decline in the sector in the Netherlands, as this country also relies heavily on Polish workers who are now finding the same jobs in their own country. Many migrant workers are planning to return to their home countries for the holidays next week, which is precisely when demand for mushroom peaks.