In Spain, the cultivation of the mushrooms Agaricus bisporus, A. bitorquis and Pleurotus spp. is located in two regions: ‘La Manchuela’, in the Southeast, and ‘La Rioja’, in the Northeast. The national mushroom production in 1999 was 92,000 tonnes, 48% produced in La Manchuela and 52% in La Rioja. Mushroom cultivaton in La Manchuela originated at a domestic level (very small scale) in the 70s. The first tunnel for pasteurisation was built during the period from 1972 to 1976. This caused important changes in the mushroom industry that originated the sales of compost packed in plastic bags, raising the production and sales of compost to small mushroom growers from 6,000 to 30,000 tonnes. During this period the number of growers increased dramatically. At the end of the 70s, grower’s came together to form societies or co-operatives, some of them providing the compost and others marketing the mushrooms. Part of the mushroom production was sent to the fresh market and the rest to the canning industry in different regions in the country. During this period, great variation in the price of the product was observed, however, this problem was solved with the establishment of local canning companies in the early 90s. Nowadays, although the mushroom industry is stable and spread all over the country, little innovation in mushroom technology has occurred which has limited development. In Spain, mushroom consumption per capita is around 1,1 Kg/year.
Until recently (up to eight years ago), the spawn was provided mainly by multinational companies, especially French ones. Nowadays, Spanish laboratories dominate the market. Sales in this sector generate £1,5 – 2 million pounds of profit (500-600 million pesetas) with 40% of this profit centralised in just one company. Currently, there is an initiative to create a laboratory of spawn production supported by the co-operatives.
For compost production, straws from cereals are one of the main costs. As a consequence of this, the growers of the region have been forced to look to other cereal production regions and also for alternative raw materials for composting (agricultural waste). Within the regions, the compost for the mushroom cultivation is provided by 16 companies, 10 of them are co-operative and the rest are private (limited societies). These companies produce 165,000 tonnes of compost per year (approximately 8 million compost-bags). Regarding the compost for Pleurotus, there are only 3 private companies in the region. They produce 8 million kg of compost per year (2 million compost-bags), 70% of the national production.
In the region ‘La Manchuela’, the mushroom cultivation is a complementary activity. It has been estimated that, of 5,000 growers countrywide, only 30% are full-time growers whereas the rest (approx. 3,500 growers) are only regarded as part-time, complementing the family income and where women have an outstanding role.
Waste recycling companies
There is a company in this region dedicated to collecting and recycling of all the waste (spent compost) generated by the mushroom industry. This company collects almost 100% of the bags-compost used within the region. This type of ecological company plays an important role in the environmental programme of the region.
Of the total mushroom production, 50% is Agaricus and sent to the fresh market and 35% to the canning industry. 14.5% is Pleurotus and 0,5%Lentinus. Variability of supply and levels of quality of the product are the main problems found in the industry. The main problem encountered by commercial firms is in the fresh market, there are co-operatives that market the mushroom produced by their industrial partners, as well as an increasing number of private storehouses, selling small quantities. For the mushrooms sold fresh, there are either co-operatives dedicated to distributing the products of their own growers and also small shops that sell mushrooms.
The fresh product is distributed in three different formats, boxes of 1 or 3 kg and trays of 300g containing caps with or without the stipe. Recently, new formats have been introduced (e.g. mixed vegetables), including Agaricus and Pleurotus. For the canning industry, there are five companies within the region processing 20 million kilos per year with a profit of 3,200 million pesetas per year.