Mushroom farmer required to damage $40,000 worth of crop as oversupply damaged food industry

Mushroom farmer required to damage $40,000 worth of crop as oversupply damaged food industry

Carleton Mushroom Farms had an issue. A 3rd of its sales had actually disappeared as the restaurant market shut down due to the coronavirus crisis.

But the farm simply south of Ottawa in Osgoode, Ont., was still sprouting 200,000 pounds of button, cremini and portobello mushrooms every week, and would continue to produce that much in the coming weeks since a mushroom is not something you can shut off.

By late March, owner Mike Medeiros had more mushrooms than he understood what to do with. The food banks and soup kitchen areas in Ottawa and Montreal had actually taken more than 5,000 pounds already that week. He called them again to provide more. “And they resemble, ‘Oh, we’re full,'” he said.

That left Medeiros and his bro, who co-owns the farm, with an option: They could invest money to harvest and package more mushrooms than they were likely to offer in grocery stores; or they might cut their losses and “steam off” some of the crop– a market euphemism for destroying mushrooms.

The bros decided to switch on the steam in 2 of their 20 active growing rooms. Steam is normally used to heat and disinfect your homes, but the farm utilized it to eliminate 20,000 pounds of mushrooms last month. At $10 per five-pound case, the damaged crop represented a $40,000 loss.

” It injures,” Medeiros stated.

Surpluses are one of the main complications to ripple through the food chain because the food-service sector’s near-total shutdown in mid-March, with supply chains scrambling to adapt to customers eating regularly at home.

For example, Atlantic Canada’s lobster sector deals with a drastic drop in demand since the economic decline has actually reduced appetites for the luxury product, and dining establishments are generally the primary location to eat lobster anyway.

The need for pork bellies has dipped, too, in part because bacon is so ubiquitous on fast-food menus, one pork processor stated this week. And, naturally, dairy farmers have actually been disposing raw milk now that coffee chains and school programs need less dairy, if any.

Atlantic Canada's lobster sector faces a drastic drop in demand.

Atlantic Canada’s lobster sector deals with an extreme drop in need.

Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images files

Mushroom farmers throughout Canada have been struggling for weeks with an oversupply, according to Mushrooms Canada.

The association said modifications in the industry have actually been taking place too quickly to fully measure just how much oversupply is presently in the system, which produced more than 133,000 tons of mushrooms and $1 billion in sales last year. But it stated the drop in demand, on top of lacks in farm labour, has some mushroom operations thinking about closure.

” Before COVID-19, mushrooms were already at near to 20- per-cent job vacancy rate,” the association said in an e-mail. “Now with COVID, we have extremely high absence due to fear of the virus, so our labour shortage is even greater now.”

The easy option for mushroom farmers is for customers to purchase more, but selling mushrooms to grocery stores is a lot more tedious than offering to dining establishments. Instead of sending huge cases of loose mushrooms to a wholesaler, who sends them to pizza joints, steakhouses and the like, farmers need to divvy those mushrooms up into little plastic containers and after that cover each one of those with cellophane.

” It takes longer,” Medeiros said. “Our day drags on.”

Cases of mushrooms at a farm.

Cases of mushrooms at a farm.

Craig Warga/Bloomberg files

In the past, Medeiros’s second-generation family farm could send surplus mushrooms to canneries.

The other problem with trying to sell more mushrooms in the retail channel is altering consumer behaviour. After steaming off 20,000 pounds of mushrooms at the start of the crisis, Medeiros began looking for ways to press more mushrooms into retail, working out with grocery stores to use his mushrooms on special and feature them in the weekly flyer.

Mushroom farmers across Canada have actually been struggling for weeks with an oversupply, according to Mushrooms Canada.

Alex Edelman/AFP/via Getty Images files

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