(Feb. 12) British Columbia mushroom growers, shippers and marketers will have new freedom to market their own product at the end of March, when the government deregulates the province’s mushroom industry.

The industry also will soon vote on forming its own voluntary marketing and promotion organization.

The British Columbia Mushroom Marketing Commission, Abbotsford, has been regulating the growth, distribution and marketing of mushrooms since the 1960s.

On March 31, the province’s 45 growers and seven marketing agencies will be able to manage their business affairs and compete in the world marketplace.

“I think most people have wanted that regulation to go away,” said Frank Moscone, president of All Seasons Mushroom Farms Inc., a Langley, British Columbia, grower and marketing agency that represents nine mushroom farms.

SUPPLY AND DEMAND

“It’s time consuming in terms of the reporting requirements. It’s very difficult to be regulated in a true supply-and-demand situation when you’re really competing in a larger marketplace.”

Moscone said he expects many growers to continue selling their product through already-established marketing agencies similar to his own, which is responsible for producing a third of British Columbia’s 60 million pounds of yearly production.

British Columbia’s mushroom volume has increased 16.6%, or 10 million pounds, this year from last year’s 50-million-pound production.

ADJUSTMENT ANTICIPATED

Bob McDonald, owner of Emperor Specialty Foods Ltd., Richmond, British Columbia, said the deregulation will be positive, but he expects the industry to experience a difficult adjustment period.

“The industry has started to conduct itself in a way that recognizes that it won’t have the highly structured marketing environment anymore,” he said.

“The transition will consist of consolidation of farms so we will have fewer but bigger and more modern farming operations. The line between the production and the sales and marketer will become more blurred.”

British Columbia growers by the end of March will have the chance to vote on organizing an industry development council that will handle many of the marketing and production roles the mushroom commission performed in the past.