TOKYO, July. 8 ― Japan’s imports of shiitake spawn, which are essentially mushroom seeds, hit a record volume in 2017, official data have shown.
Shiitake spawn imports to Japan rose 18% to 15,649 metric tons in 2017 from a year earlier, the finance ministry said. That was the 10th consecutive year of growth since 2008 and all imports were from China.
The Edible Mushroom Spawn Association has estimated that shiitake grown from the imported mushroom spawn accounted for 7.5 percent of the Japanese total production volume in 2017.
Shiitake are among the most popular of many varieties of mushrooms eaten by the fungi-mad Japanese. Each year, families and restaurants stew, fry and grill hundreds of tons of these brown umbrella-shaped vegetables.
This year, imports of shiitake spawn in the January-May period jumped 46 percent to 6,640 tons from the same period a year earlier.
The May figure itself more than doubled and the imports of shiitake spawn this year will likely break last year’s record volume, the association said.
Understandably, Japanese shiitake farmers fear annihilation, because the current labeling system allows shiitake grown in Japan can be labeled as Japanese-made products even if they are grown from imported spawn.
Now they are demanding to change the labeling category to indicate that Japanese-made shiitake are grown more than three-quarters of domestic spawn, differentiating them from those of imported spawn.