Chinese shiitake spawn import to Japan to hit a record in 2018

TOKYO, Jan. 13 ― Japan’s imports of shiitake spawn, which are essentially mushroom seeds, will likely hit a record volume in 2018, exceeding the 2017 record, official data have shown.

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.

Shiitake spawn imports to Japan in the first eleven months through November 2018 totaled 18,650 metric tons, already exceeding the 2017 full-year import record of 15,649 metric tons, according to the finance ministry.

If the December figure remains the same level a year earlier, then the imports of shiitake spawn will likely break the 20,000 metric ton barrier in 2018.

That would be also the 11th consecutive year of growth since 2008 and all imports were from China.

Japan’s Edible Mushroom Spawn Association has estimated that shiitake grown from the imported mushroom spawn accounted for about 10 percent of the Japanese total production volume in 2018.

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 grown more than three-quarters of domestic spawn, differentiating them from those of imported spawn.

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