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Ireland and UK’s Mushroom Industries ‘Harnessing Innovation’

All Ireland and UK Mushroom Conference & Trade Show 2015

Today delegates at the All Ireland and UK Mushroom Conference and Trade Show in Monaghan discussed how Ireland and the UK’s mushroom industries are ‘Harnessing Innovation’. The conference, sponsored by Bord Bia, brought together growers, scientists and suppliers from all 32 counties of Ireland, and again from the UK as well.

The event, themed ‘Harnessing Innovation’, was opened by Tom Hayes, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, with special responsibility for Horticulture. Speaking at the event Minister Hayes said: “Accounting for almost 50% of the value of our edible horticultural output, the mushroom industry is by far the most important sector within Ireland’s horticultural industry. The strong export focus and high employment levels add further to the sector’s contribution to the Irish economy and especially the rural economy. Irish mushroom growers are among the most technologically advanced and efficient in the world. The mushroom industry like every other sector in the modern economy must continue to strive to generate further efficiencies and to reduce overall costs.”

He was joined by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in the Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, who echoed his sentiments saying, “I’m encouraged to see Ireland and Britain coming together for this conference and trade show, to share experiences and help to drive the mushroom industry forward. I have always been a champion of our Agri-food industry and am delighted to say it continues to be a significant growth sector for the local economy with turnover in the food and drinks industry heading towards £5 billion. Recent statistics also show an increase in employment of 5% as well as increased exports of more than 7%. Clearly, we need to have a thriving farm production sector if we are to maintain a thriving food processing sector. Mushroom growers, producers, packers, marketers and researchers are all key to that growth. Their optimistic approach and determination is to be applauded”.

Dermot Callaghan who is head of both horticulture at Teagasc and of the organising committee told delegates that, “This year’s conference theme, ‘Harnessing Innovation’ reflects the progressive and innovative culture in the mushroom industry where entrepreneurial producers grasp every opportunity to increase efficiencies and maximize profits. The industry has a track record of innovating around challenges and today we have one of the most technologically advanced mushroom sectors in the world, which provides a strong platform to meet the challenges of the future”

A Mushroom Industry in Growth

Bord Bia estimates the combined North and South mushroom production has a farm gate value of €173 million. UK mushroom production is estimated be worth £115 million at farm gate level. The majority of Irish production is sold on the export market, with 80 percent exported each year. Bord Bia reported that mushroom sales remain steady both in Ireland and in the UK, Ireland’s most important export market.

According to Michal Slawski, Development and Marketing Specialist, Bord Bia, “Both the UK and Irish mushroom markets are showing steady growth, both in volume and in value. The UK market in particular is performing very well compared to the vegetable category as a whole. Mushrooms are growing in both value and volume, while vegetables are growing in volume but declining in price.” He added, “The €2.7 million three year EU co-sponsored mushroom promotion in the UK and Ireland helps play its part by increasing sales in the target audience. The number of UK households buying mushrooms has increased by 600,000 and the proportion of households aged under 34 who buy mushrooms has increased by one third (Source: Kantar Worldpanel), during the three years of the More to Mushrooms, and the following first two years of the Just add Mushrooms campaign.”

In the first session Helen Grogan (Teagasc) and Mairead Kilpatrick (AFBI) updated the industry on key research messages from MushTV, Tim Dolden from Loritus discussed Biocoal from Spent Mushroom Substrate and Production Management Software was covered by Hazel Codd, Codd Mushrooms. In the second session, Gerry Walsh, Teagasc (Retired) spoke about 40 years of Irish mushrooms, Brendan Burns, Sylvan looked at Growing Systems Abroad, Michal Slawski, Bord Bia covered Food Innovation and a short Market Review and Stephen Allen, Monaghan Mushrooms spoke about “3 Ways To Get People to Eat More Mushrooms.”

A trade show featured 32 exhibitors showcased the latest equipment, machinery, renewable energy technology, packaging and supplies and growing facilities.

The organising committee for this years’ event included representatives from AHDB, AFBI, Bord Bia, CMP, DAFM, DARD, the IFA, Monaghan Mushrooms, Northway Mushrooms, Sylvan, Teagasc, and Walsh Mushrooms.