At the end of a year or at the start of a new one it is always a good thing to look back and forward. Look at it as an evaluation and re-focussing of targets. It is also a good time to give yourself and your team a feedback.
Looking back to 2021 it was a year of great challenges. We had our normal variations in compost and casing soil quality. It still is impossible to predict the weather so we still will have to cope with changes in raw materials due to the weather. And reacting to that always comes too late.
Another thing that kept us busy was Covid. Supermarkets stayed open but restaurants and hotels got closed down. For those delivering mushrooms to that restaurant sector life was hard. Due to that closure the demand of restaurants almost fell back to zero for those places who did not do food deliveries at home. Read catering. On the other hand, due to the closure of those restaurants the supermarket sold more. People preparing their own food tend to use more mushrooms in a dish. So farms who depended on supermarket supply had a benefit there. Plus we had the effect that people where looking for healthy food. The only thing was that demand was unpredictable. Sometimes supermarkets demanded a lot, sometimes they just cancelled the orders. A reason for that was the government of each individual country. The rules where different everywhere and nobody knew what was coming the next week. This was also the reason that many farms got in trouble with their workforce. Depending on foreign labour, many farms did not know if they had the pickers for next month. A test for negative result in their home country made sure they could come to your country. But on entry of the country or even your farm another test often gave another result, resulting in a quarantine for a week or so. A positive result on the test had big negative effects on the farms concerning picking. Another result of covid was that consultants like me had great difficulties traveling and visits where often cancelled. The sparring simply did not take place and many developments on farms where put on hold.
Look forward though we are facing a lot of challenges again. Covid will not go away for a while so restrictions will stay in place. A good reason to look very critical at the labour supply of the farms. Other countries? Fixed contracts to keep people there ? Find people in your own country despite of the mostly higher costs? In that case security of labour comes with a price but at least with a steady labour base. Already announced are the higher energy costs which will have an effect on the whole business. Because of transport costs rising everything will be more expensive. Direct energy costs will rise so your cost price will go up.
Talk to your clients about that before it really turns into a problem. Make good prognosis and a business plan based on the new situation. Experience of last year has learned me that supermarkets do think with you as long as you can present good figures, based on facts. So keep an eye on the ball and remember. Act before it is too late and do not act on emotion. Remember, you make a good product and they need it.
This leaves me with wishing you all the best for 2022. If traveling restrictions will loosen up we will probably meet again physically, if not we always have zoom.
Henk van Gerwen