18 October, 2012
Mushrooms in the
is a little known fact that wild mushrooms occur naturally in and around the
Mondi and Mondi Shanduka Newsprint pine forests. One of these mushroom species
is Boletus edulis, a delicacy that is highly prized in the best restaurants
around the world. Commonly referred to as the ‘Porcini', these mushrooms are
widely used to flavor soups, pastas and risottos.
The Boletus edulis is the fruiting body of a fungus that
attaches to the underground roots of pine trees. The picking season in South
Africa (summer and autumn) coincides with the off-season in the Northern
Hemisphere, and global demand is typically high during this time.
(Pty) Ltd is a company established by Mondi Zimele, the small business
development arm of Mondi, together with World Wide Funghi (Pty) Ltd, an
experienced packager and distributor of mushroom products. The aim of Copasize
is to create value through the picking, processing and distribution of the wild
mushrooms harvested from Mondi's forestry operations, as well as create much
needed employment opportunities in rural forestry environments.
mushroom harvesting occurs in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and Mpumalanga, and is
a challenging operation. The Boletus edulis mushroom blooms for a very short period
and spotters are used daily to find signs of the often unpredictable mushroom
growth. Once a bloom is identified, pickers are deployed into the area early in
the morning to carefully collect the mushrooms. Harvested mushrooms are then
brought back to packaging plants in Bulwer or Amsterdam.
the lower quality mushrooms can be processed and sold dried or frozen, the most
valuable are fresh mushrooms. Fresh mushrooms are packaged into small wooden
crates and sent in refrigerated vehicles to distribution centres for overnight
flights to end consumers. Although the local market for wild mushrooms is
growing, the bulk of the fresh South African Boletus edulis mushrooms are
exported into Europe and North America. This means that wild mushrooms harvested
by community workers in Mondi's forests may find themselves on the very best
restaurant tables in New York or Paris within a few days!
aims to harvest 50 000 kgs of mushrooms per season, and currently employs
around 50 seasonal pickers with seven permanent employees. Copasize is
confident that there is significant opportunity to expand, which is good news
for local economic development in our rural forestry environment.
pickers employed by Copasize. The
fresh mushrooms they collect are being
served at the best restaurants around