Mushroom growers to ‘fight tooth and nail to hold on to UK market’

Mushroom growers are losing their share of the UK market due to a weaker Sterling and volatile markets, IFA Horticulture Committee Chairman Gerry Reilly has said.

“We will fight tooth and nail to hold on to the UK market, but we need support to do that,” he said.

The difficulties faced by the mushroom sector were discussed at a meeting of the joint committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine on Tuesday, September 28.

The UK is the single biggest export market for Irish mushrooms, with over 50 articulated lorry loads going to the UK seven days a week, Reilly said. 

Reilly said that Irish mushroom producers are working off contracts that are negotiated up to 12 months in advance that are also negotiated in Sterling terms.

And as a result, Irish mushroom producers are struggling to honour contracts and have been forced to buy in mushrooms from Poland and the Netherlands to meet demand, he said.

Meanwhile, eastern European countries, such as Poland, are ready and willing to supply the UK market, displaying Irish produce.

This is having a knock-on affect on the domestic market, as mushrooms once meant for the UK are now having to compete for space in Irish supermarkets.

Plans to save the mushroom industry

Irish mushroom producers were looking for a number of measures to help save the industry during this period, which would include the immediate payment of 2015 monies from the EU Fruit and Vegetable Producer and Organisation Scheme by the Department.

Reilly was joined by Michael McGovern, Chairman of the Commercial Mushroom Producers, Ronnie Wilson from Monaghan Mushrooms, Leslie Codd, Marketing Manager of Codd Mushrooms and Rowena Dwyer, Chief Economist of the IFA.

In 1996 there was a total of 600 mushroom growers in Ireland, Reilly said, this figure has dropped to just 60 farmers this year.

Three farms have gone out of business since the Brexit vote, that’s 130 jobs gone within the first 100 days, this volatility cannot continue.

In the past when farms would close, other mushroom producers would take up the slack, but this has not happened following recent closures, he said.

“No one has the appetite to expand anymore in such a volatile market and we’re losing market share to eastern Europe and our other competitors,” he said.