– Last year, the market of exotic mushrooms in Europe grew few procent, – says Piotr Rubacha, sells manager of the Exotic Mushroom Center, the largest Polish company producing shiitake. It is European subsidiary company of Qihebiotech, a biggest Chinese producer of substrate for the cultivation of exotic mushrooms- especially shiitake.
– We’ve been working in Europe, actually in Poland, for three years. When we started our company we used to send one container of shiitake substrate to Poland a month – and now six or eight containers. To supply our need and growers around us, – says Piotr.
Exotic Mushroom Center is located in Poland, in the West of the country, near Głogów. Here, 3.5 – 4 tons of shiitake are produced weekly. They produce these mushrooms on a substrate that comes from China already overgrown, in containers, frozen. The company also effectively sells the substrate to small and large shiitake producers in Poland and Europe.
– We have a lot of support from the Chinese parent-company, that is why we grow shiitake and eryngii of the highest Asian standard. We have production manager and mushrooms grower specialist from China. That’s have two benefits. One that we have very good quality of our own production and second that we can support and teach our partners to optimize their production. At the beginning of our presence, Polish producers did think that we will slowly take over market and they will need to end their production. Because for us, building growing rooms with large cultivation areas is not a big investment, and our quality will be better. But after 3 years we can see different model. They see benefits of our presence here. They can buy good quality substrate with good value for money, substrate is always on stock, if there is any problem with yield we will visit them and help and if any side of cooperation is “short” on mushrooms we can help each other. -says Piotr Rubacha.
QiHe Biotechnology- Exotic Mushroom Center give three options of cooperation.
Option one Exotic Mushroom Center can sell ready-made mushrooms
Option two QiHe Biotechnology sell container directly from China and EMC give technical support. But it takes 50-60 days of waiting, about 20,000 Euro of frozen money, means doing the customs procedure, and ordering the entire container 7200 or 14400pcs of substrate .
Last option – to buy the substrate from Exotic Mushroom Center. It has a warehouse on site, where 3-4 containers are stored, i.e. 60-70 thousand pieces of substrate, which is used for current own production and for the needs of smaller customers. When buying a substrate, the customer also receives technological support.
Poland and shiitake
As they say at the Exotic Mushroom Center, in addition to their own production, there are three large shiitake producers in Poland- as I know. Each of them produce more or less half or a third of what the Exotic Mushroom Center produces. And now there appears more and more small producers who see that the production of shiitake is profitable. Now there are several dozens of them, which produce several dozen kilos a week each of them. In total, Poland produces nearly 10 tons of shiitake per week. But consumption in Poland is still very small.
– When there was a promotion in Intermarche – there were quotations for 120 kg a week, which actually is very small. My friend who works with Makro says that Makro orders less than 100 kg a week, – says Piotr. – In more discount stores – Biedronka, Lidl – shiitake is not sold at all, so this sale to Poland is quite small.
– I think that 70% of shiitake sold in Poland are sold for HoReCa. For example, when the pandemic hit, shiitake sales dropped a lot because restaurants closed. Then it was clear that most of the sales, even if go through the resellers – finally went to the restaurant, – says Piotr Rubacha.
More and more restaurants with Asian cuisine are opening in Poland. This has two advantages: 1) the demand for mushrooms is growing, 2) people are learning new flavors and products that they may use at home someday
An interesting case is the NOBU restaurant in Warsaw Nobu Hotel. Thay takes shiitake every week from the Exotic Mushroom Center – bringing them for a higher price, with delivery from Poznań to Warsaw. Just to have the best quality Shiitake that fits their quality standard and be able to serve guests their best soup. They need the shiitake cap to be the perfect size because they put whole mushrooms in the plate and make a star on it.
In Poland, a kilo of shiitake in a store can cost over 15 Euro, which is quite a lot for Poles. So, most of the shiitake is produced in Poland is exported, mainly to Western European countries. Speaking of Exotic Mushroom Center – their export sales are 90-95%.
On the other hand, Poland is a good place for business of production of shiitake for export.
Shiitake market in Europe
– We send mushrooms and substrate to Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Belgium, Slovakia, sometimes to Germany, France and thro Polish resellers our mushrooms are in UK as well. We are looking for new sales representatives, companies and people that would like to work with us. I know that our company is looking for new investment in Romania, England, Germany and Spain. We also have a plan to open a large production in Spain – there we will produce the substrate in Europe using our Chinese technology, – says Piotr Rubacha.
As they told us at the Exotic Mushroom Center – the most shiitake in Europe is produced in Spain. QiHe Biotechnology sends several containers of substrate per month from China to Spain.
– Due to the fact that our part of Europe has started to produce quite cheap button mushrooms, many producers in Spain have switched to exotic mushrooms where the margins are higher. And there is less competition, – explains Piotr.
After Spain, the second and third producers of shiitake (and exotic mushrooms in general) are the Netherlands and Belgium.
According to consumption – Spain, England, France, Belgium and the Netherlands consume the most shiitake. There is a large Chinese minority in Spain who probably consume a lot of shiitake in this country.
Generally – the long-known formula works – where the society is richer – exotic mushrooms are more popular. There are also higher quality requirements. For example, a British restaurant chef may require to buy the mushrooms of a certain size – because he wants the slices to look the same when cut. One of Exotic Mushroom Center’s customers from Great Britain talks about it.
What else is important – the richer the country is – the more important it is to have a BIO certificate for the product. In two months, Exotic Mushroom Center will also be able to sell such mushrooms and substrate to the client.
– A container with BIO substrate was already sent to us from China, it will be here in 60 days. We already have customers for the substrate and mushrooms with a BIO certificate. There is a huge demand for it now, and we want our customers who buy the substrate from us to be able to offer their customers also such mushrooms, very popular in Western Europe and expensive to sell. The Benelux countries, Sweden, Finland, Germany have already become accustomed to the fact that this BIO stamp is important for their health. So soon we will be able to offer such a product, – says Piotr Rubacha.
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