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The mushrooming demand for mushrooms

By Xu Junqian in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-26 07:16

Wild mushroom rice at The Cook at Kerry Hotel Pudong, Shanghai. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Diners in China have been flocking to restaurants to savor the earthy flavors of premium Yunnan fungus, especially the prized matsutake, and even the prohibitive prices this year have done little to deter gourmands

This summer's unusual rain pattern in Southwest China's Yunnan province has been bad news for mushroom gatherers.

The region, which is home to more than 250 types of mushrooms, saw its average rainfall between May and early June dip by 50 percent. What followed was 40 consecutive days of rain that resulted in floods and mudslides that have severely affected mushroom production.

Matsutake yield has dropped by a staggering 90 percent this year. Farmers said they only managed to gather about 10 metric tons of the mushroom daily over the past week, which is usually the peak harvest period.

But mushroom traders have actually benefited from the dismal harvest. Because of the low yield and high demand, the retail price of matsutake in Yunnan peaked at 3,000 yuan ($448) per kilogram this season.

According to the Yunnan Matsutake Association, domestic consumption of this particular mushroom was 1,000 tons last year. Demand for the mushroom is also high in Japan, especially during this time of the year when it is widely consumed during the Obon Festival, also commonly referred to as the Ghost Festival.

"We would usually wrap up our business this time of the year as exports to Japan, our main customer, nears its end," said Yan Ji, a 32-year-old mushroom trader from Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan. "This year, however, business has not even started to wane."

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