There's Going To Be A Mushroom Shortage Soon. Here's Why

Mushroom growers began 2020 on a really high note. There were signs that mushrooms were slowly — but surely — going mainstream; the American Mushroom Institute (AMI) says in January of this year growers were chalking up record sales and seeing a modest increase in retail prices. Mushrooms weren't just popular among home cooks — they were trending in the food service sector too (via Fresh Plaza). But that all changed when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Orders fell by as much as 90 percent after restaurants and food service outlets closed and people across the country complied with stay-at-home orders. As a result, the Institute says growers ended up with coolers full of fungi with nowhere to go, and the inventory ended up either being donated or destroyed. Mushroom growers then decided to align with market demand by scaling back operation and delaying plantings (via Perishable News). 

Now the situation has reversed itself, and mushroom demand has, well, mushroomed again. But getting growers and supply chains in alignment has not been easy, and industry executives say until then, supermarkets could see a mushroom shortage that could stretch out over the six to 10 weeks (via The Packer). 

Mushroom growers won't be able to meet demand for some time

Growers face several challenges to meet erratic demand. Mushrooms need about six to 12 weeks to grow, and this includes producing compost and preparing planting beds so that the area can support up to three harvests. Growers also need to repack catering-sized boxes into 8- to 24-ounce packs. 

Producers are also struggling to get the right kind of compost to grow mushrooms in. Some growers may make their own compost, but others buy commercial — and compost companies haven't had much luck with raw materials because events like auctions and horse races (where you'll find plenty of compost) have been cancelled. "Farmers used stable bedding to grow mushrooms, and now they're having a challenge finding enough compost. You wouldn't think not having the Kentucky Derby would impact mushroom growing, but it does," Lori Harrison, a spokeswoman for the American Mushroom Institute tells Capital Press.

So even if mushroom demand is back, those of us who love mushrooms and recognize it to be the healthy ingredient that it is will have to wait a while. "Retailers can expect shortages of mushrooms to some degree for the next 6 to 10 weeks," the AMI says. "However, growers are working diligently to fill retail customer demand, and we expect more farms to come online and ramp up production as stay-at-home orders are lifted, and as more restaurants and foodservice businesses begin to open and increase capacity."