Delegates at the All Ireland Mushroom Conference and Trade Show in Monaghan heard how Ireland’s mushroom industry can ‘Survive and Thrive’. The conference, sponsored by Bord Bia, was jointly opened by Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD and Northern Ireland’s Minister for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michelle Gildernew.
Speaking at the event Minister Brendan Smith said the mushroom industry has always been market led, with the straightforward objective of keeping fresh mushrooms on the supermarket shelves when, how and where the customer wants the product. The Minister said that “working to meet that seemingly simple measure of success demands that each element in the industry plays its part.” He suggested that ‘”the time is right to explore innovative ways of organising and to adopt more strategic approaches to the market. An individual company may survive through sheer hard work, but for the industry to thrive in difficult times something more is needed.”
Photos: Lorraine Teevan Minister Michelle Gildernew appreciated the invitation to be part of an important conference for the benefit of the mushroom industry on the island of Ireland. “This joined up approach by the industry is a very positive step in terms of sharing experiences and taking the mushroom sector forward. I must congratulate the organising committee from both north and south on their hard work to ensure this conference is of benefit to all within the industry” said Ms. Gildernew.
Bord Bia estimates the combined North and South mushroom production has a farm gate value of €134 million. Almost 80 percent of this production is exported each year. Bord Bia reported that mushroom sales remain steady both in Ireland and in the UK, Ireland’s most important export market. In 2008, the retail value of mushroom sales in Ireland increased by over 20 percent, from €42 to €51 million. According to Michal Slawski, Development and Marketing Specialist, Bord Bia “in recent years, fresh produce sales have been boosted by consumer’s health concerns. Health and wellbeing is still on the agenda and even today, with the current search for value, fresh produce sales are unlikely to be overly affected.”
Delegates at the conference also heard how the UK’s mushroom market continues to be competitive with suppliers from other EU countries. Claire Duffy, Capital Markets Relationship Manager, Ulster Bank, had good news for exporters with Ulster Bank’s projection of the future value of sterling. According to Ms Duffy “the current projection of the Ulster Bank economist is for Euro/GBP exchange rate to trade towards 80p by the end of 2009.”
Other speakers at the conference included Helen Grogan (Teagasc) and Mairead Kilpatrick (AFBI) who provided an update on industry research and Gerry Walsh (Teagasc) who discussed Spent Mushroom Compost. Mushroom growers Leslie Codd, Codd Mushrooms, Co. Carlow, and Colm Feely, Drimbawn Mushrooms, Co. Monaghan discussed the practical applications of renewable energy and the ‘trials and tribulations’ of large scale management issues respectively.
In addition there was a poster presentation which covered various technical aspects of production and research. A trade show featured 32 exhibitors showcasing the latest equipment, machinery, renewable energy technology, packaging and supplies and growing facilities.
The organising committee for this years’ event included representatives from AFBI, Bord Bia, CMP, DAFF, DARD, Dew Fresh Ltd, the IFA, Sylvan, Teagasc, and the UFU.