(Aug. 27, 12:55 p.m.) Fewer mushrooms were sold in the U.S. this season, but because of higher prices, the value of the crop was largely unchanged from a year ago.

Those are among the findings in the annual mushroom overview published recently by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

About 809 million pounds of U.S.-grown mushrooms were sold in the 2007-20008 season, 2% fewer than in 2006-2007 and 4% fewer than in 2005-2006.

But at $1.19 per pound, the average price of mushrooms this season was three cents higher than last season.

As a result, the value of the 2007-2008 crop — about $964 million — was about the same as a year ago, and 8% higher than in 2005-2006.

Despite those higher prices, and the economic downturn, retail demand for mushrooms is strong, said Bart Minor, president of the San Jose, Calif.-based Mushroom Council.

While domestic production was down slightly, imports have helped keep pace with retail demand, he said.

One recent report showed retail sales of mushrooms in July up 4.3%, Minor said.

Foodservice demand, however, is another story, he said. As consumers tighten their belts, restaurants suffer.

With input costs up 14% over last year, when they were already high, it’s hard for growers to keep up, Minor said.

“It’s good that prices are going up, but they’re not going up as fast as costs are,” he said.

According to the USDA, the volume of agaricus, or white, mushrooms sold in 2007-2008 for the fresh market came in at 675 million pounds, 3% percent lower than a year ago at the same time.

Portabello, crimini and other brown mushroom varieties tallied 105 million pounds in 2007-2008, up 6% from a year ago but 11% below the 2005-2006 crop.

The biggest percentage growth in the U.S. mushroom industry in 2007-2008 was in the specialty category.

The value of specialty mushrooms this season totaled $50 million, up 9% from a year ago.

The price of specialties, however, dropped in 2007-2008. The average price per pound received by growers was $3.08, down an average of 16 cents per pound from last year.