Mushroom exports from Belgium have seen a steady decline in the last few years, according to figures from Eurostat and VLAM, Flanders’ Agricultural Marketing Board.
Volumes have fallen from 31,828 tonnes in 2011 to just 25,415 tonnes in 2014, a result, according to VLAM’s fruit and vegetable product manager, Anneleen Leon, of the growing dominance of Polish mushrooms over this same period.
The massive increase in Polish production negatively affected prices in Europe, rendering exports there barely profitable for Belgian companies.
The answer appears to be increased specialisation in quality. Almost three years ago, Roeselare-based auction REO Veiling began selling mushrooms under its Tomabel quality label.
In the last few years, the Tomabel quality brand has been widened to include not just tomatoes and strawberries, but also mushrooms, in addition to babyleaf lettuce and endives.
“The Tomabel growers have specialised in organic mushrooms, mainly in white mushrooms, brown mushrooms and oyster mushrooms,” says the auction’s Tom Premereur. “The Tomabel label guarantees not just a higher quality mushroom, but top-quality packaging too. Therefore, these growers have become important suppliers of organic mushrooms to the retailers.”