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It’s a fungal famine

The traditional big breakfast is under threat thanks to a key ingredient disappearing from Wairarapa plates.
Amid a nationwide egg shortage, restaurants and wholesalers are also reporting a crippling mushroom drought.
Ten O’Clock Cookie owner John Kloeg said the Masterton establishment has struggled to find mushrooms since local producer Parkvale closed its doors at the end of last year.
“Nobody has mushrooms at the moment, so what are you going to do for your big breakfast?
“We would always get ours from Parkvale, but now we’re looking at something that’s twice as expensive.”
Kloeg said he reached out to a Palmerston North mushroom supplier last week, who had to turn him down because he had nothing left.
Martinborough’s Cool Change chef Thomas Pepper said supply chain issues typically spiked over the busy Christmas and New Year period, but this year’s mushroom shortage was something else.
“I can’t get any at the moment. I will probably have to change the menu tonight, and swap out the sauce on the beef. There’s just nothing around.”
Pepper said “there’s quite a backstory” to the problem.
Jina’s Fresh Produce, a distributor for dozens of Wairarapa establishments has been without mushrooms for two consecutive weeks.
National sales manager Phil Simms said the Hutt-based wholesaler was the victim of a “perfect storm”.
“It’s a cliché, but it’s true. It’s the first time we have been in a situation like this in well over 10 years.
“We like to spread ourselves around the country to avoid any kind of weather disasters.
“But last year we had 50 per cent of our producers close.”
In addition to losing 30-year-old established suppliers such as Parkvale and Te Mata mushrooms at the end of 2022, Simms said Jina’s two remaining fungi producers ran into supply issues.
“Unfortunately, one had a really big issue with its compost, which wasn’t up to standard, so it had to start from scratch.”
The loss was huge, with growing sheds full of four-five tier high mushroom “bunk beds” completely scrapped.
“Then, just to compound it by sheer bad timing, a mushroom farm up north did a promotional deal with one of the big supermarket chains.”
The deal saw mushrooms fly out of the storeroom, leaving the producer unable to fulfil any other orders, Simms said.
“We might go through 400 trays of mushrooms a week, but we have had two weeks of nothing.”
He said the shortage is affecting kitchens across the board, from hospitals, to schools, rest homes, and the Interislander Ferry.
“Then you have places like Martinborough where all the restaurants use mushrooms.
“I look after every single customer in Wairarapa. It’s been frustrating for a lot of people,” Simms said.
“Monday was the first time we had some of our suppliers gradually coming back, but it’s not like a light switch.”

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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