New scheme allows pickers to turn mushrooms into cash

22-07-2015

Under a freshly launched project, Czech mushroom pickers are now able to turn the hugely popular hobby into cash. The South Bohemian company České houby is now buying up their finds and delivering them to supermarkets around the country, Hospodářské noviny reported.

Photo: Martina SchneibergováPhoto: Martina Schneibergová České houby, which had previously supplied field and oyster mushrooms to high street retailers, is from this week doing the same with fresh and dried varieties of the forest mushrooms that many Czechs love to pick.

České houby’s CEO Jiří Stočes told Hospodářské noviny that the company was planning a trial run this year to see whether mushroom pickers would be interested in selling the fungi they had found among the pine trees in the country’s forests.

At present České houby – one of the 10 biggest mushroom producers in the Central region Europe – is focused on selling chanterelle forest mushrooms. However, if customers show an interest in other types of forest mushrooms it will also make them available.

České houby currently has two collection centres where mushroom pickers can translate their forest finds into banknotes. The average amount handed over for a kilogramme of chanterelle mushrooms is CZK 200.

The company, which has been recognised in the Vodafone Company of the Year awards, has invested CZK 170 million into its systems in the last four years.

At farms in Soběslav and Nedvědice České houby produces around a thousand tonnes of both field and oyster mushrooms annually, achieving yearly turnover of almost CZK 200 million.

It supplies almost all of the supermarket chains in the Czech Republic, with the exception of Kaufland, which gets its mushrooms from Poland, the biggest competitor to Czech growers. Jiří Stočes told Hospodářské noviny his firm was simply unable to compete with the Poles on price.

As for export, Czech oyster mushrooms most often end up on shelves in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.

České houby pays its employees by weight, with experienced pickers collecting two to three hundred kilogrammes daily. This can result in pay packets of up to CZK 30,000 a month.

However, finding employees is not always easy, according to Jiří Stočes, who told Hospodářské noviny he had hired Vietnamese and Ukrainian pickers as Czechs were often uninterested in the demanding work.

22-07-2015