European mushroom growers are in talks about funding a multimillion pound generic promotional push in the UK in an attempt to shake the market out of its slumber.
Negotiations between British, Dutch and Irish growers are at a delicate stage with a final decision set to be made by the end of the year.
The campaign, part-subsidised by the EU, could include TV ads and would be worth between E3m and E6m, industry sources suggest.
However, the success of the plan is dependent on the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands all agreeing to move it forward, since under EU rules at least three member states must take part to qualify for the funding.
The Irish Food Board, Bord Bia, is driving the initiative. An insider said mushroom growers in the Republic - who export 75% of their production to the UK - have pledged to pick up a substantial part of Ireland’s share of the costs, with the Irish government promising the rest. Several of the largest Irish producers have put up money to undertake early market research. However, growers in the UK and the Netherlands are proving harder to convince. Peter Woad, chairman of the UK’s Mushroom Growers Association, said he had begun canvassing his members.
“So far there has been a mixed response,” he said. “There has always been difficulty in getting money from growers.”
Growers in the Netherlands are believed to be lukewarm about a joint marketing plan, and whether it goes ahead may well hinge on their decision.
“The Dutch industry is undergoing a realignment and may find that it has different priorities,” said Woad.
Ton Derks, sales director of the Dutch Heveco Group, said there was interest among growers in the Netherlands, but added: “One concern is that the EU funding may be minimal.”
David Shapley