Mushroom exports were worth US$90 million last year, said Pham Van Du, the department’s deputy director, at a conference in HCM City on May 18.
Vietnam produces about 250,000 tonnes of mushrooms a year, with more than half of that sold in domestic markets as fresh produce.
With abundant straw, saw dust and sugarcane, which can reach 40 million tonnes per year, Vietnam has great potential for developing the mushroom sector.
If only 10 percent of the available mushroom growing materials were used, about 1 million tonnes of mushrooms will be produced, bringing in about US$1 billion annually from mushroom exports, Du said.
Foreign demand for mushrooms is increasing rapidly because of the perceived health value from mushrooms. In addition, mushroom export prices have gone up year by year.
Because mushroom cultivation is still scattered and on a small scale, Vietnam cannot meet larger export orders or long-term export contracts, according to the department.
Nguyen Quang Trung, director of the Soc Trang-based Tu Thao Mushroom Export Process Company, said the company has met only 30 percent of export orders due to lack of a long-term supply source.
Many conference participants agreed that mushroom production is an economically effective sector.
In addition, using straw in mushroom production has helped reduce the burning of straw, thus contributing to environmental protection.
Participants said to develop a sustainable sector, localities should invest more money in producing high-quality strains, form commercial production areas and build industrial mushroom processing facilities.
Vietnamese farmers are producing about 16 kinds of mushrooms, including straw, button, oyster, wood ear and reishi.
Mushrooms are mainly cultivated in southern provinces, including Dong Thap, Soc Trang, Tra Vinh, Can Tho and Dong Nai. Mushroom cultivation in some Asian countries and territories, including the Republic of Korea, Japan and Taiwan, has been industrialized and become an important economic sector.