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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » December 21, 2012
Polska…tastes good!
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Spreading Like Mushrooms
December 21, 2012   
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Production of the common mushroom (also known as the button mushroom, white mushroom and the champignon) has been growing rapidly in this country over the past 10 years, turning Poland into Europe’s biggest and the world’s third-largest producer of Agaricus bisporus after China and the United States.

During this time, many modern mushroom-growing facilities have been built, some as greenfield projects and others as a result of modernization and expansion of existing ones. New mushroom-growing businesses are largely mechanized and automated and fitted with climate-control computers, resulting in a product of the highest quality.

Estimates put the number of facilities growing Agaricus bisporus, mainly of the white variety, at around 2,500 specialist farms whose annual output now exceeds 250,000 metric tons. According to the Horticultural Economics Department at the Institute of Agricultural and Food Economics (IERiG¯), mushroom production in 2012 will have grown to 262,000 tons and mushroom cultivation will occupy 237 hectares. The greatest production potential, however, comes from just over 100 large-scale mushroom growing businesses whose cultivation area exceeds 10,000 sq m. These companies export the bulk of their output.

Mushroom growing is a major segment of horticultural production in Poland, as shown by the increase of mushroom exports since 2004. In 2011 fresh mushroom exports had doubled compared with 2004, growing from 80,200 tons to 161,000; fresh mushrooms exported in 2011 were worth 231.8 million euros. Almost 70 percent of total Polish fresh mushroom exports go to European Union countries, the main buyers being Germany, the Netherlands, France and Britain.

Russia is becoming the biggest importer of Polish mushrooms, which is a good sign for Polish producers. Annual exports to Russia tripled in 2007-2010, from 11,000 tons to 33,000. Already in 2010, mushroom exports to Russia far exceeded the volume of sales to Germany and to the Netherlands. Large exports mean that Polish mushrooms dominate among European consumers. According to the estimates of the Association of the Cultivated Mushroom Sector (SBGU), one in four mushrooms eaten in Europe is grown in Poland.

This export success would not have come about if Polish mushrooms were not of such quality. This has been achieved thanks to producers’ substantial specialist know-how, advanced outfitting of mushroom growing facilities, continual upgrading of cultivation technology as well as hand-picking of the mushrooms. The Research Institute of Vegetable Crops, today the Research Institute of Horticulture in Skierniewice, has contributed significantly to the development of mushroom growing in Poland by developing and modernizing the production of substrates and mushrooms as well as methods protecting crops from diseases and pests. Though more than 70 percent of the national output of fresh and processed mushrooms is exported, measures aiming to increase the consumption of mushrooms in Poland are important, too. One step in this direction came with the campaign “I, Mushroom” in 2011, conducted by the SBGU with support from the Agricultural Market Agency, aimed at popularizing the flavor and culinary value of the common mushroom and promoting different ways of cooking with mushrooms.

Czes³aw ¦lusarski, Ph.D.
Cultivated Mushroom Research Unit
Research Institute of Horticulture in Skierniewice
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