Recent research by the Philadelphia Inquirer revealed that “Product of the USA” mushrooms are devastating American mushroom producers. American mushroom producers are in crisis mode thanks to the intrusion of Chinese mushrooms sold under ‘Product of the USA’ labels.
Gary Schroeder has been in the business of growing and selling specialty mushrooms for 40 years. Schroeder’s Oakshire Mushroom Farms had annuals sales of $37 million in 2017 and employed 65 people last year, but now Schroeder is fighting to keep his company alive. He cut his workforce to 16 and filed for bankruptcy in early January and is saddled with $10 million in debt.
Some of Schroeder’s business downturn was due to losing Costco as a buyer. Costco switched to sourcing mushrooms from Canada thanks to a strengthening US dollar that made Canadian mushrooms cheaper. However, Schroeder and other mushroom producers said shitake mushrooms that originate from China are dealing the heaviest blow to American mushroom growers.
Shiitakes are grown on logs and Schroeder’s farm is one of a small handful of American farms that produce the logs. But over a nine-month period last year, Chinese log manufacturers swept into the market, undercut prices and devastated Schroeder’s business, wiping out 85 percent of his log sales.
Even more unnerving for Schroeder and his fellow growers is the fact that the Chinese shiitake mushrooms are being sold with “Product of the USA” labels. Apparently, the practice of seeding a crop in one location and maturing in another is happening with other agricultural products as well.
Eric Stein, CEO of Barisoft Consulting Group, which specializes in indoor farming, stated that seeding in one place and maturing in another is a growing trend: “It’s become a trend in the industry. It’s not just mushrooms. You seed in one location and you ship it to another place to do maturing. This is a whole new thing.”