British and Irish mushrooms can be on the shelves of retailers within 12 hours after harvest and cover a maximum distance of 643 km. Mushrooms from mainland Europe, on the other hand, take up to 36 hours to reach the store shelf and must be transported over distances of thousands of kilometres. Locally grown mushrooms are therefore not only much fresher but also have a longer shelf life, says Padraic O’Leary, director of Walsh Mushrooms.
“The demand for mushrooms has been very strong in the past three months. We saw the number of new consumers increase by 1.2 million during the first three months of the year and booked a turnover of 125 million. If this continues, we will reaching a turnover of 498 million by the end of the year and that would be phenomenal. “
A large part of the extra turnover is due to the fact that people prepare meals at home. Although demand from the food service has fallen, demand from retail has grown strongly. Sales of mushrooms enriched with vitamin D are also experiencing strong growth.
“We also have vitamin D-enriched mushrooms on the shelves, which feature an eye-catching label to highlight the fact that they contain extra vitamin D. Only locally grown mushrooms are fortified with vitamin D.”
“Promotional activities such as mushroom week or vegetarian week are being organized to encourage consumers to keep meat. Padraic says, however, that she does not really see sales peaking during these promotional weeks. “I think it’s a step too far for Britons to swap their burgers for mushrooms on the barbecue but the campaigns to encourage people to cut their meat consumption by 25% are really having an effect. in countries such as the US and Australia already a big trend to get your proteins from mushrooms and I expect that we will see this more and more here too. ”
As in other agricultural sectors, labor availability is a recurring problem. Walsh Mushrooms mainly employ workers from Eastern Europe. “We have been lucky in recent months because people have stayed with us or picked fruit because of travel restrictions. However, in the long run, the shortage of workers will remain a major challenge. Brexit will only worsen this problem. UK is becoming less attractive as a country to work because of the depreciation of the British pound and the fact that other markets in Europe offer more security.
“Brexit will also have an impact on production. In the UK we could be self-sufficient but we need more workforce before we can scale up. We also grow our product in Ireland but currently we don’t know yet if there will be levies after Brexit apply.”
“Whatever the outcome of Brexit, the fact remains that Irish and British mushrooms travel fewer miles. British and Irish perform best.”