Bulletin Number 7. July 31st, 2012
Dr. Johan BaarsDr. Johan Baars

Mushroom industry in the Netherlands – strong competitors

The Netherlands harbours a substantial mushroom industry. The Dutch Horticultural Board (1) has calculated that in 2011 a production value of 304 million euros was achieved. As button mushrooms are produced on specially prepared compost with a fairly constant yield, they are a horticultural product for which production rates can be deduced from sales of the compost. Well over 95% of the mushroom production consists of button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus). On a very much smaller scale, also Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) and Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) are grown. Mushroom production in the Netherlands is mainly concentrated in the southeast part of the country; about 90% of the production area is located in the provinces of Limburg, Brabant and Gelderland. The leading position of the Netherlands as a mushroom producing country is very closely followed by Poland. The production of mushrooms in Poland increased from 130 million kg in 2003 to 250 million kg in 2010 (1). So, Polish mushroom production almost equals Dutch mushroom production. According to RaboBank (2) the Dutch mushroom industry is the world’s third largest producer of mushrooms and the second largest exporter of mushrooms. Poland is the biggest exporter of fresh mushrooms. For the market of processed mushrooms, the Netherlands dominates in Europe. There is fierce competition in the marketplace and consumption of mushrooms is not growing in Western Europe.
According to the Dutch Horticultural Board (1), Dutch production of button mushrooms amounted to 230 million kg in 2009. About 140 million kg was for processing into canned and frozen mushrooms. Fresh mushroom production amounted to 90 million kg, of which 67.7 million kg were exported. The UK is the most important market for fresh button mushrooms from the Netherlands. In 2009, the UK bought about 41% of the Dutch fresh mushroom supply. Germany bought 26% of the exported mushrooms and 22% was sold to France. The remaining 10% of exported fresh mushrooms was sold mainly in Norway, Belgium and Sweden. Canned and frozen mushrooms are sold to a large number of countries, but Germany, France and Greece are the biggest customers for these products.
As stated above, supply of compost largely determines the production volume of mushrooms. CNC Grondstoffen (3), Walkro (4) and Hooymans compost (5) are the three main compost producers in the Netherlands for cultivation of button mushrooms. Next to this, the Belgian compost producer Sterckx (6) supplies growers with compost. They predominantly supply their customers with fully colonized compost (phase 3 compost). They also export their compost to a number of other European countries. CNC Grondstoffen also has production sites in Poland. Mushroom compost in the Netherlands is produced from straw bedded horse manure, wheat straw, chicken manure, gypsum and water in a 3 phase process. It is a fully indoor process and all the air that emerges from the processes is collected and treated for the removal of ammonia in a hydrosulphuric acid washer. Other malodorous compounds are removed by use of a biobed.
Spawn for the mushroom industry is delivered by companies that are active worldwide, like Sylvan Spawn (7) and Amycel (8). Two years ago, ItalSpawn began selling to the Dutch market through Hollander Spawn (9). Even more recently Lambert Spawn (10) entered the Dutch market. Three companies mainly supply casing soil: CNC Grondstoffen (3), Topterra (11) and Euroveen (12).
The number of mushroom production companies has diminished considerably during the last 20 years. In 1990, there were about 852 mushroom production companies. In 2001, the number of mushroom growers in the Netherlands was about 480. Last year (2011) only about 180 companies are actively growing mushrooms (1). As the situation changes frequently, the figures aren’t always accurate. For instance, a large bank like ABN-AMRO (13) counts a total number of 173 mushroom growers. Especially 2009 was a difficult year (14) with a sharp drop of income for growers.
According to methods used for harvesting, two main groups can be distinguished among Dutch button mushroom growers. About 130 to 142 (1, 13) companies harvest their mushrooms by hand. Handpicked mushrooms are produced for the fresh market. According to the Dutch Horticultural Production Board (1), they reached a production value of 124 million Euros in 2011. Rabobank (2), the main financer of mushroom companies in the Netherlands, predicts that in five to ten years there will be only about 100 growers left. These growers are predicted to have mushroom farms with production area’s of over 5000 m².
With respect to selling their mushrooms, the handpicking mushroom growers are organised into two organisations, Funghi and Greenery. Funghi U.A. (15), established in 2004, is a cooperative for mushroom growers. About 75 growers are members of Funghi and represent a growing area of over 300,000 m2. They represent about 55% of Dutch mushroom production. The Greenery (16) is another big player channelling mushroom sales. Next to this, there are some very large companies that produce handpicked mushrooms, like PrimeChamp (17) and Limax (18). PrimeChamp produces its own compost and grows and sells its own mushrooms. Limax produces mushrooms both in the Netherlands and in Poland and has its own sales.
About 30 to 35 (1, 13) companies harvest their mushrooms mechanically. According to the Dutch Horticultural Production Board they reached a production value of 180 million Euros in 2011. Rabobank (2) predicts that 10 years from now, there is room for about 25 mechanically-harvesting growers on the market. These growers are predicted to have mushroom farms with growing area’s of 15,000 – 20,000 mm². The market situation is different for the mechanically-harvesting growers. Their main competitor will be China and to a lesser extent France, Spain and Poland. Rabobank does not expect that China will export large quantities of processed mushrooms to the European market.
Mechanically harvesting mushroom growers predominantly sell their mushrooms to the mushroom processing industry. A major canning company in the Netherlands is Lutèce (19). Lutèce is, according to their website, the biggest producer of canned mushrooms in Europe. A second Dutch producer of canned mushrooms, albeit at a smaller scale, is Prochamp (20).
Among a relatively large number of companies that trade fresh mushrooms, Banken Champignons (21) is one of the largest. Mushroom traders are represented in the trade organisation Frugiventa (22). According to Rabobank (2) the number of mushroom trading organisations will decrease.
Over the last 4 decades, the mushroom industry in the Netherlands has become highly mechanised. This has led to a number of companies that are specialised in building compost facilities and farms. You can probably meet them at all major mushroom related trade fairs. Many people in the mushroom industry are familiar with their names: Christiaens group (23), Patron AEM (24), Dalsem (25), Gicom (26) and Thilot (27).
Advice and support is given to growers by technical staff from compost and spawn companies. In addition, independent advisors can be hired. The most well-known advising agencies are Cpoint (28), Advisie (29) and the more recently started companies “Mushroom Office” (30) and Mushroom Advice Network (31).
The Dutch mushroom industry is encountering some problems. Although Dutch mushroom growers are very skilful and able to produce high yields of button mushroom per tonne of substrate, they have trouble selling their mushrooms at a good price. Prices paid to growers for their mushrooms are low, especially for handpicked mushrooms. A large number of mushroom farms have been closed in recent years. The remaining mushroom growers have expanded their farms. In 2000, there were 429 mushroom farms in the Netherlands with a growing area smaller than 2,500 m2, which is about 90% of the total number of mushroom farms in those days. In 2009, there are 128 growers with a similar growing area (about 67% of the total number of growers). A small number of growers (about 13% of the total number of growers) operate on growing area’s that are larger than 7,500 m2. This small group of growers represent 61% of the total growing area of button mushrooms in the Netherlands (32). They are trying to expand their production scale in order to maintain profitability.
According to Rabobank (2) mushroom consumption is stable in Western Europe. Mushroom growers are trying to encourage Europeans to consume more mushrooms. For this, in 2008, they have established the Mushroom Promotion Foundation (33). The Mushroom Promotion Foundation is an initiative of the mushroom industry in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Spain. Affiliated with the foundation are many companies and trade organizations from companies active in all aspects of the supply chain, composting companies, farmers, and processing companies. In 2010, the Mushroom Promotion Foundation (MPF) started a long-term communications and advertising program in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain and Belgium. These promotional campaigns are providing information to consumers about the versatility of mushrooms as well as their nutritional and health aspects. As part of the campaign, MPF created the website:
In addition to problems in the market, there are also problems regarding crop protection. In the period from 2006 till 2008, there were large losses in production due to Trichoderma aggressivum infection in the compost (34). Dry bubble disease, caused by Lecanicillium fungicola, remains a considerable problem. Supermarkets discourage the use of pesticides, so growers have to put even more emphasis on farm hygiene. The number of pesticides available to growers in the Netherlands is limited. As a fungicide, only Manganese-prochloraz (trade name Sporgon) is available for use in mushroom cultivation. As insecticides, only deltamethrin (trade name Decis) and Diflubenzuron (trade name Dimilin) are available. Insect pathogenic nematodes for control of Sciarid mushroom flies are not used on a large scale in the Netherlands. In 2011 and 2012, growers reported an increase in the incidence of Sciarid mushroom flies.
Despite the problems of the Dutch mushroom industry, banks like Rabobank (2) and ABN-AMRO (13) consider the industry viable. According to Rabobank the Dutch mushroom industry should focus more on the needs of their customers in retail, foodservice and food processing industry and develop new products. The emphasis should be on added value. According to ABN-AMRO, high labor costs in the Netherlands are a problem. This bank recommends increased scale of operations and automation. Also, ABN-AMRO recommends that the Dutch mushroom industry develop new products and pay closer attention to marketing.


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Dr. András Geösel and Anna SzabóDr. András Geösel and Anna Szabó, CorvinusUniversity of Budapest, Faculty of Horticultural Science;Department of Vegetable and Mushroom Growing H-1118 Budapest, Villányi str. 29-43. Hungary

The increasing consumer demand for less pesticide use during mushroom production underlines the importance to develop novel pest and disease control programs in mushroom cultivation. The strict regulations limit farmer’s opportunities to use highly effective pesticides against pathogens. The combined technologies in integrated mushroom production might be effective in a high quality, well-maintained shelf system house. The well-maintained air-fan systems and high-pressure cultivation tunnels, offer the possibility to cookout before a new and after an old crop. This is helping growers to reduce quantity of pesticides used - but mushroom houses with less technological capability have to deal with higher levels of pathogens. At present, the largest part of mushroom production in the world comes from low-tech farms and this underlines the demand for new developments and increases the number of problems that must be solved.

The types and ages of mushroom units are so different and many of the problems are related to these variable structures. Additionally, the growing systems (tray, shelf, bag, block etc.) may have an influence on the pathogen status of a farm. The main components of pest and disease control are listed in this report.

1. Location and equipment of mushroom farms

Mushrooms are cultivated in various types of facilities, e.g. in caves, plastic tunnels, agricultural buildings and in Dutch type cultivation houses. Each type of production house should be kilometers away from locations of compost making and far from animal farms and abandoned agricultural areas in order to help minimize the chance of contamination. Keeping surroundings of the mushroom farm well tended, weeded and mowed helps pest-control as well.
Equipment of the farms (e.g. heat exchangers, ventilation systems and machinery) should be properly maintained; otherwise the lack of service might cause hygienic problems that could cost even more to overcome.

2. Tools design and usage

The design and materials of equipment and tools (knives, parts of the irrigation system, carts) used in the cultivation area should allow for effective sanitation. Maintenance of these instruments plays a vital role in prevention as well. It is also important to disinfect vehicles used in rooms during third flush before moving them to rooms with first flush.

Loggers (e.g. thermometers, data recorders) should be calibrated regularly in order to avoid false information. Workers dealing with this equipment should be trained on how to use them properly, as inept usage could cause damage.

3. Receiving, storing and moving materials

Since the compost and casing soil are products of animal and plant origin, microbial contamination may occur with higher risk. Careful planning and work can minimize the risk. One consideration during the design of a new farm is that compost has to be moved through number of rooms and passages, and spent compost should not pass near fresh materials (Fig. 1).
Never, not even temporarily, store plastic containers used during picking next to wastes. Since packaging materials (e.g. compost bags) could be the source of contamination, these have to be removed from the growing area as soon as possible.

4. Water quality

Water is used for many purposes in mushroom production, for example, irrigation, cleaning surfaces and equipment and as a solvent of chemicals. That is why the quality of the water used during cultivation has great importance and water must be free from harmful microorganism.

Since water could carry pathogens dangerous for mushrooms or even humans, and various chemicals can get into wastewater as well, sewage disposal has to be planned and regulated carefully (Fig. 2).
5. Farm cleaning and sanitation
Keeping the growing area generally clean is an essential requirement. A plan for the daily, weekly and monthly cleaning and disinfection in the growing rooms and in the social areas is essential. Numerous reports have shown that, in many cases, the sources of contagion were the floors, doors, work clothes and equipment used for picking (Fig. 3).

In Hungary, there are ongoing projects aimed at developing a monitoring system that identifies the sources of infections within the farm. After finding the centers, a focused disinfection with sanitizers should be the most effective way to fight pathogens and weed molds.

6. Pest control

A number of different animals (e.g. mice, rats, birds, insects) can get into the growing rooms. Most of them do not cause any direct damage, but they carry pathogens, which can be dangerous not only for mushroom culture, but also for humans, as they could cause food safety problems.

It is important to prevent animals from entering growing areas by keeping the surroundings tended, the buildings clean and if necessary by pest control. Wherever possible, chemical pest control should be avoided.

7. Staff hygiene

Workers have a significant role in spreading and also in preventing the spread of pathogens and weed molds. Wearing jewelry, such as necklaces, rings or earrings in the growing area is forbidden. Jewelry may get caught in machines, and they can harbor pathogens on their surface. Washing hands is mandatory before starting work and every time when reentering the growing area.

Proper hand washing techniques and special, low price sanitizers (e.g. GloGerm Gel) aids effectiveness. Staff must learn the right way of washing their hands. Applying a special gel on their hands reveals to them how effective they have been with their hand washing method. This gel, combine with UV light, reveals missed areas during hand washing. The glowing areas (mostly the fingernail beds and the back of the hand) are where bacteria and other dirt may still be present.

8. Traceability of the mushroom product

It is in the interest of the producers that their food product gets to the consumer in its highest quality. Since mushroom products can be stored only for a relatively short time, the identification of the items is very important. In case of a later reclamation, every item has to be identifiable. Any food security controversy or contaminated product can bring the whole mushroom sector down in a very short time.

9. Training and education

The entire staff must be familiar with cleaning and disinfection procedures established by the farm. Regular training and education regarding hygiene always pays for itself, because damage caused by pests, diseases and microbiological contamination can be very expensive. It is also important to be aware of and implement new techniques in the practice as well. The costs of preventative methods are usually lower than usage of chemicals and losses caused by lower quality and quantity of mushrooms.

All of the above-mentioned ideas are only examples that attest to the fact that mushrooms are premium products that require special and systematic care throughout the whole production process. Even minor errors may cause an instant reduction in product quality and income. This can be avoided with careful, consistent work and a well-planned daily routine.
Let us remember in year 2011 what happened with some fresh vegetables! Nearly all European cucumber production collapsed in a week because of false news from media about E. coli infestation in a cucumber product. A novel strain of Escherichia coli 0104:H4 bacteria caused a serious outbreak of foodborne illness that was focused in northern Germany in May through June 2011. The confirmed cases reached 50 deaths and almost 4,000 infected people. Many cucumber farms became bankrupt because of late response and not well managed communication of the German and European offices. The Spanish exporters losses was 200M US$ per week at the beginning of the outbreak. Russia banned the import of all fresh vegetables from the European Union. Several months later in the U.S., a cantaloupe outbreak resulted 139 people infected with strains of Listeria monocytogenes and 29 deaths were reported. The cantaloupe processing environment and improperly stored product was responsible for the serious outbreak.
All of the above-mentioned precedents underline the importance of traceability of the product and an efficient, well-controlled hygiene program. Any microbiological or food safety problem with mushroom products may have the very same result in a short time: be careful because the competition in mushroom marketplace is high, i.e., only top quality products may be profitable in the long run..

1. Anonymus (2010): Fresh trends 2010. Mushroom News, 7: 10.
2. Chang S.T., Miles P.G. (2004): Mushrooms – Cultivation, Nutritional Value, Medicinal Effect, and Environmental Impact. CRC Press, USA.
3. Fletcher J.T. and Gaze R.H. (2008): Mushroom Pest and Disease Control, a Colour Handbook. Manson Publishing, Boston.
4. Győrfi J. (2011): Gombabiológia, gombatermesztés. Mezőgazda Kiadó, Budapest. (in Hungarian)
5. Introduction to the Mushroom Good Agricultural Practices (MGAP) Program (2010): Penn State University and the American Mushroom Institute (pdf).
6. Bucknavage M., LaBorde L.F. (2012): Lessons Learned from the Recent Cantaloupe Outbreak. Mushroom News, February (2): 4-7.
7. Mushroom Good Agricultural Practices Program - Industry-Wide Food Safety Standards for Fresh Mushroom Growing, Harvesting, and Shipping. (2009): Training Handbook (pdf)
8. Piasecka J., Kavanagh K., Grogan H. (2011): Detection of sources of Lecanicilium (Verticilium) fungicola on mushroom farms. Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Mushroom Biology and Mushroom Products. 479-484.

1. Anonymus (2011): E.coli cucumber scare: Germany seeks source of outbreak. BBC News. (; Retrieved: 04/06/2012)
2. E. coli cucumber scare: Spain angry at German claims. BBC. 31 May 2011 (archived)
3. ECDC Director’s Presentation (2011): Understanding the 2011 EHEC/STEC outbreak in Germany. ICAAC Conference, 17 September 2011 (pdf)
(, Retrieved: 04/06/2012)

Figure 1. Waste left next to intake vents may become a source of pathogens and contaminants.

Figure 2.Drainage water many carry disease-causing organisms and chemicals that may spread within a farm.

Figure 3.picking, thorough cleaning and disinfecting of floors is suggested. A power washer is not recommended during croping, because droplets of water may contain microbes that may be harmful to mushrooms.

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Dr András GeöselDr András Geösel, Corvinus University of Budapest, Faculty of Horticultural Science; Department of Vegetable and Mushroom Growing H-1118 Budapest, Villányi str. 29-43. Hungary

Dear colleagues,

At our last meeting in Arcachon, France, several delegates commented on the lack of a comprehensive and reliable database of institutes engaged in mushroom-related research and development. In order to address this shortcoming, and provide such information in a concentrated and regularly maintainable format, it is proposed to set up a separate section on the WSMBMP website ( where different research and educational centres engaged in mushroom-related activities can register and submit a brief description of their interests and activities. The planned sub-site will serve to promote and increase cooperation between mushroom biologists, and provide information on current developments and undertakings (e.g. participation in international projects, multi-participant grant applications) that cannot be accessed elsewhere.

If you are interested in introducing your institute to the webpage, please fill out the short datasheet below and send the information by e-mail to ( As of now (30th July, 2012), 15 datasheets have been received and will shortly be published on the WSMBMP website.

In addition to participation in the database, the WSMBMP strongly encourages Society members to submit information on other items including pre-doctoral/post-doctoral openings, scholarship availability and partnership opportunities.

Finally, if you have any further suggestions for improving communication between us, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely,

Andras Geösel, PhD
Council Member, WSMBMP

Template datasheet

Name: Full name and address of institute.
Research activities: Brief description (3-5 sentences) of major research areas.
Contact(s): Name(s) and email address(es) of contact person(s).
Capacity: State if your institute is able to accept BSc, MSc or PhD students from elsewhere.

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About this bulletin

The WSMBMP Bulletin is the official electronic publication of the World Society for Mushroom Biology and Mushroom Products. The bulletin is intended to keep members informed about Council activities and to share general information about mushrooms. It is designed to allow communication between society members and alert them about new topics and opportunities related to mushrooms. Society members and general public are kindly invited to submit letters, comments and information of interest for the mushroom community to be published in the bulletin. Please submit your contributions electronically in free format to the editors José E. Sánchez (, Helen Grogan ( and Daniel J. Royse (

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