The Irish mushroom industry is acknowledged to be one of the best in the world. It is the largest horticultural sector in Ireland, accounting for almost 50% of the value of our edible horticultural output.
Bord Bia estimates the combined North and South mushroom production has a farm gate value of €173 million and equates to 7% of the total EU mushroom harvest. In comparison, UK mushroom production is estimated be much lower at £115 million.
Irish growers produce 70,000 tonnes of mushrooms a year, 80% of which is sold in the UK, mainly through the big supermarket chains.
Mushroom businesses operate in a highly competitive market place and survival depends on ensuring the highest quality produce at the best price possible, produced in a sustainable manner.
In 2017 Ireland exported around 89 million euros worth of mushrooms. (We imported approximately €3 million).
Companies in Ireland:
In recent decades, the Irish mushroom industry has located itself close to the Border. It employs more than 3,200 people, mainly in Monaghan, Cavan, Kildare, Meath, Carlow and Tipperary, contributing significantly to the economies of these areas. Mushroom grower numbers in Ireland have decreased from 700 in 2004 to around 40 today but despite this they are still supplying the same volume of mushrooms to the UK.
CMP is one of Europe’s leading horticultural producer organisations, representing 90% of Irish mushroom production and growers. A number of mushroom growers around the country are part of the CMP group. CMP provides mushroom producers with training, technology and markets for their businesses.
In the Republic, Monaghan Mushrooms has grown since its foundation some 30 years ago to be one of the largest mushroom companies in the world. Based in County Monaghan, it employs about 3,500 people across its operations in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and Canada. It is one of the oldest mushroom businesses in Ireland.
The company is involved in all aspects of growing mushrooms. They produce compost and grow, pack and deliver mushrooms to customers in six countries.
With the launch of their Research & Development department in 2007, they have been dedicated to the improvement and identification of new processes, services and products.
They are now the largest mushroom substrate producer in the world.
Northway, a producer organisation run along cooperative lines, was established in 2000 with about 65 growers between the North and the South. At the time, it had a turnover of £10 million. Today, the number of growers has shrunk to 20 but output has shot up and turnover is now around £55 million. The transformation is down to technology, specifically the introduction of Dutch shelving inside growing tunnels. These are layers of stacked shelving that allow the tunnels to massively increase their output.
Frank Donnelly at Keenaghan Mushrooms is part of the Northway Mushrooms network. Northway has supported Frank in moving from white mushroom production to chestnut, provided access to funding for the installation of a biomass boiler, delivered picking training and agronomy services, provided access to a robust buying group and has developed a transparent supply chain with stable, fair prices. The result of this supported approach has been a 4 fold increase in production, a 40% increase in selling prices and a 50% reduction in energy costs, alongside increased training and development opportunities and reduced consumables costs through bulk buying by Northway. You can read more about Keenaghan Mushrooms here.
Walsh Mushrooms Group was founded in 1979 and is one of the largest suppliers of fresh mushrooms and substrate in Ireland and the UK. Each week they supply over 500 tonnes of fresh mushrooms to the UK market place. They also produce close to 2,000 tonnes of substrate for Ireland and the UK market.
Their Head Office is located in Gorey, County Wexford where they have manufactured substrate for nearly 40 years. Growing and packing operations are located in Golden in County Tipperary, Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk and Evesham in Worcestershire. They employ close to 400 people across the 4 sites.
From their centrally-located packhouse in Evesham, they provide daily a nationwide cold chain delivery service to retailers, food manufacturers and food service customers, meeting their varied specifications and strict delivery time lines.
Their mushroom preparation facility produces a wide variety of options for customers ranging from sliced, diced, quartered, segmented or just washed mushrooms.
Teagasc has played a leading role in supporting the growth of the Irish mushroom industry over the past 40 years. The agency has provided research, advice and training for mushroom-growers and has overseen the industry’s transformation from a small-scale, labour-intensive activity that supplemented farm incomes in the 1980s to the modern large-scale, labour-efficient standalone businesses of today.
Teagasc’s R&D programme has covered aspects of farm safety, disease control, waste recycling and mushroom quality.
There are plans to invest in new mushroom-growing rooms and glasshouses at the Teagasc Food Research Centre in Ashtown, west Dublin which will provide independent research support to the industry and provide a platform for collaborative international projects.
In recent years Monaghan Mushrooms has put a substantial research programme in place in areas of mushroom production and biotechnology, and this will make a major contribution to the development of the sector.
Custom Compost, a subsidiary of Walsh Mushrooms, and Sylvan Ireland also conduct their own research to improve and ensure the quality of their products, thereby also ensuring that the Irish mushroom industry is world class.
Risks for the Mushroom Industry:
Brexit poses the biggest risk for the mushroom industry in Ireland. At least 60 producers have gone out of business since the Brexit vote in 2016. Around 80% of the mushrooms grown in the Republic are destined for the British market. The value of sterling also has an effect on Irish producers. There is also competition from mushroom producers in Eastern Europe.