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Fresh or processed, the mushroom interprofession wants to boost consumption

Production, consumption, competition: Réjane Mazier, general secretary of the mushroom interprofession, takes stock and discusses the challenges and projects facing the sector.

The interprofession brings together the French Interprofessional Mushroom Association (ANICC) and the French Federation of Mushroom Growers (FNSACC).

Total French production returns to stable level
French mushroom production, mainly for processing, totalled more than 150,000 tons in the 1990s. However, the low demand in relation to supply and price wars both in France and the European Union have seen the national production fall steadily over the last twenty years. But the strong interest shown by retailers in French products has contributed to the development of fresh production, which is now in the majority. As a result, since 2021, French production has stabilized at around 75,000 tons (with some 50 farms spread across the country), including 43,000 tons for fresh produce, "supplying 50% of the overall consumption in France." The rest comes from imports, mainly from Poland for fresh produce.

The organic production accounts for less than 5% of the French output. These very small volumes are unlikely to increase, given the constraints involved. In order to be produced organically, the straw used to make the substrate must also be organic, "and it is very difficult to get hold of large quantities of this organic straw." The organic mushroom sector is also suffering from inflation, with a sharp drop in consumption.

Lower tray weights
The number of households buying and the frequency of purchases are on the rise. However, the household purchases in volume will fall slightly in 2023 due to lower tray weights. "The drop in volumes purchased should not last, thanks to the mushroom's growing popularity," according to the general secretary of the interprofession.

European promotion program to encourage consumption
To support and boost mushroom consumption, a promotional program co-financed by the EU is being carried out in 9 European countries, including France. It was launched in 2023 by GEPC, the European Mushroom Producers Group. The aim is to target young consumers for whom "food is less of a priority, so we want to make them aware of the advantages of cultivated mushrooms, which are easy to prepare, rich in fiber, full of taste, and can be eaten raw or cooked, fresh or canned." Mushrooms are produced all year round, but their consumption is not the same throughout the year. "We see a drop in purchases as soon as the weather warms up. Consumers associate mushrooms with cold temperatures, although it is perfectly fine to eat them on the barbecue or in a salad, for example." The program is therefore focusing on social networks (recipe ideas and benefits) to stimulate the demand.

Phyto: the mushroom also has its pests
Produced in cultivation chambers offering total control over temperature and humidity conditions, as well as high yields for surface area, the cultivated mushroom is not immune to disease and pests. It is on these issues that the interprofessional organization, through its technical center based in Distré (the only experimentation center dedicated to cultivated mushrooms in France) is working to provide growers with new alternative methods of controlling sciarid flies, web disease and dry rot, that impact both quality and quantity.

Francization: "French origin" specifications back at the heart of relations with retailers
"We would like to see this tool used more widely," explains Réjane Mazier, referring to the specifications developed specifically to guarantee the French origin declared by the producer and intended for downstream distributors. This document is designed to prevent cases of francization, particularly with Polish mushrooms, whose production costs remain unbeatable. "The principle is based on an audit carried out by an independent third party on the premises of the producer who requests it, on the basis of the specifications. Using 10 indicators specific to the cultivation of mushrooms, the auditor certifies the French production announced by the producer, based on the production capacities implemented over a given period and comparing it with the volumes placed on the market."

For more information:
44 Rue d'Alésia, 75014 Paris
[email protected]

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