In Romania, high quality mushrooms are produced, but there is little information for consumers and we end up eating fodder mushrooms, imported. What is the difference between a real mushroom, with taste, and one called “fodder” we find out from the farmer Puiu Elisei. He set up a mushroom farm in Călărași County with the help of European money.
It is said that you are what you eat and I learned from the Champignon mushroom grower what quality actually means. In this case, the bigger the mushroom hat, the less good it is. In fact, in the field it is called “fodder mushroom”. Restaurants are called “grill mushrooms”. The true quality is found, however, in mushrooms that have hats with a diameter of 50 bani.
Reporter: You showed me something I didn’t know, I have to admit: the difference between cquality iuperca, that is it, and ciuperca what is sold in Romanian stores, what is this. I would have said that this is better. You contradicted me. Please explain the difference.
Elisha’s baby, farmer: The small mushroom is the mushroom that is the tastiest and has the most fragrant taste and is the most sought after in the western market, where the consumer knows what he wants to eat. Instead, we, in Romania, are invaded by mushrooms from other countries and here I could mention Poland, where a lot of mushrooms come from. The Romanian quality standards that are in force are made by the trader and the trader, if he sells a bad product that he cannot sell in his country, throws it on our market and says that what he sells is the best.
The big mushroom, which in our country is considered to be the first quality, is basically a fodder mushroom, which you have to feed the animals., but the Polish cultivator, in order not to throw it away or to pay to throw it away, throws it in Romania as the first quality. And then we are very disadvantaged, because we start from the bad mushroom, which is fodder, but it is called quality first. And the real one, the first quality mushroom, we sell it as the third quality mushroom. So see what competition we are in and what world of competition we are in.
What the consumer should know
Reporter: How can the consumer understand the difference between quality and quantity?
Elisha’s son: First of all, there should be a correct labeling of the product and this should involve both the veterinary authorities that control and the Consumer Protection, ANPC or as they are called, where if you sell a mushroom quality III and write on it the quality And, either withdraw the sales license, or do something to you, you can’t do that anymore.
The second thing that could be done in our country could be an advertisement on television, in the press, including the Ministry of Agriculture could say: Well, brothers, eat, look, the quality standards are the following: for mushrooms, for tomatoes , cucumbers … Stop eating quality-labeled nonsense brought from Turkey, which is full of chemicals!
Not to mention that products that enter Romania, such as The grill mushroom, which is the third grade, the fodder mushroom, is very much treated to swell as much as it is presented, so it has chemicals in it. While we only sprinkle them with water. We don’t chemicalize them. We sprinkle them with water and they grow according to the expression “like a mushroom after rain”. So the mushroom we produce is a high quality mushroom. You saw the taste and the color and the aroma and all that. Instead, we are invaded by poor quality and cheap imports. And lately, because of inflation or low wages, people are looking to buy a cheap product, they are no longer looking at the quality of that product. If it’s cheaper, take that one.
Stop eating Polish mushroom, stop eating grill, it’s not good!
How to grow mushrooms
Reporter: And to explain a little bit about this mushroom growing work, what is it, what are the stages?
Elisha’s baby: We buy a compost, it is called phase III compost, meaning it is a sown compost. We put it on the shelves. It comes in 20-pound blocks, we put it on the shelves. We put a rather thin layer of peat over that compost, which we buy from Romania, we buy it from the north of Moldova, and after we put the peat and compost, we start watering. We water them, the first phase of cultivation appears. So, a whole culture process would take about 40 days, during which time we harvest about three, maximum four waves of culture, that is, we harvest three or four times. They, the mushrooms, appear in waves. The first wave – more productive, the second wave – a little less productive and the third and fourth waves are just maintenance, maybe getting money out of them or ladies helps to be something in vain.
Reporter: And after that, do you have to change all that means these compost bags and so on?
Elisha’s baby: Yes, after we finish harvesting, we take out the compost, we take it out of the mushroom and it is very, very suitable for solariums. We mix it with bird manure, because we have bird manure in the yard, we mix it and it is a very good fertilizer for solariums. We have noticed since we have the mushroom: the mushroom compost keeps the moisture in the soil, ie the watering does not go into the soil, the water does not drain into the soil, but stays in this compost, and the plant grows fabulously.
How hard it is to make a business out of European money
We believe that mushrooms are unpretentious productions, because they appear practically after any rain, everywhere. It’s just that when you get to the mushroom shop and you go to specialists, you realize that things are really complicated. 1.2 million euros, European money, were invested in the farm in Călărași, which has several components: mushroom growing, vegetable solariums and meat bull farm. Of all, the most painstaking work is done in the tunnels where the mushrooms grow.
Reporter: We are in Călărași County in one of the few mushrooms in Romania that was made with European money. Tell us a little bit, how did the project develop and what problems do you have?
Elisha’s baby, farmer: We bought the former CAP Dichiseni, we started with a chicken farm and later we did the project you see now. Basically, the project with European funds included the mushroom farm – eight cultivation tunnels -, solariums for cucumbers, tomatoes, tomatoes, we grow in them, and a fattening bull farm. The value of the project was 1,200,000 euros, of which my contribution was 30 percent.
Reporter: Have you done all these projects – the chicken farm, the bull farm, the solariums and the mushroom farm, how do you develop them further, what were the problems, did the money come easily or was it difficult to access this European money?
Elisha’s son: So, writing the project and accessing European funds is not a complicated thing. If you are a specialist, you know what is written in the project. Normally, you work with consultants, but the consultant, if you let go of his head, writes the drafts in the project. You have to consult yourself very well, tell him what you want. So, it was easy to make the project, to approve and execute it, that is, to build it, to put it into operation. Only the problems came after that, when according to the project made in 2016-2017, the market was one, and in the meantime the pandemic completely changed the market. So we rely on some customers that no longer exist, such as HoReCa. The vegetables and the mushroom went very well on HoReCa. And also the raw material became very expensive, the material that we use in the production of mushrooms or in solariums or in bulls. Instead, the sale price is low, it’s down and you’re not making a profit. But European funds force you a bit, they don’t take the market into account and they force you to do what you said, even though you are unable to do as you said three or four years ago and if you have the strength, say, to succeed, you will he soon went bankrupt.
Farmer: “I can’t sit on a chair and eat seeds”
Reporter: You have invested over one million euros here. You have other projects, you told me about them, but you are still going to access European money?
Elisha’s baby: After I made and started this project, I immediately did another project, namely a project for a cannery for vegetables, precisely in the idea that the products that I harvest and that I can not sell and which are considered practically as waste, although they are not waste, to be able to process them, to be able to preserve them, to be able to make them, I don’t know, a zacusca, a pickle, anything. Only at this point I am at a standstill, I might say. The project was budgeted at the level of 2018-2019, an accepted European project, contract signed, everything, but the budget of two years ago no longer corresponds to reality. Building materials have become very expensive. It can only be supplemented as a budget on ineligible expenditure, ie on my own money, which I cannot afford to supplement. It’s a project of about 800 thousand euros and I don’t know if I can continue, due to the financial sources that we no longer have. I mean, with the money we had two years ago, we can’t do the project anymore lat the level of 2021.
Reporter: Are you sorry you made these investments?
Elisha’s baby: Sometimes you sit and think if it’s good or bad. On the other hand, it is an investment, we create jobs trying to make a profit. We don’t have it at the moment. And we have activity, we have a lot of activity. Someone else said to me: why are you still doing projects? Because if I didn’t, what could I do? Should I go sit in a chair and eat seeds? I can’t do this. I must be active in the field.