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The 2 messages below were posted on Matsiman message board by visitors.  Broker expenses and risks from picker to end market are examined.

Tuesday September 23, 2003
10:39:40 PM


Wow the market in tokyo(Ota) lists the matsutake at a whopping 52500 yen per lb or kilo (not sure which). calculating yen to US dollar 122:1 makes the top matsies worth $430 US (or divide by 2.2). market report states it is steady. check it out for yourself at I'm sitting at home in barriere thinkin about you guys pickin in the north(i left 4 days ago..)and wondering why the system could be so screwed up that the companies wouldn't share the wealth at these prices. I'm really F**kin choked at the whole raw deal. How can the companies claim anything about market prices that are public knowledge! I think they have all been in bed together for too long. To those sticking it out I salute you all. good luck up there. Rob in Barriere.

Wednesday September 24, 2003
04:10:52 AM


Hi Rob in Barriere

Those prices you quoted are for 400g baskets from Iwate prefecture in Japan. So the highest price works out to 131,250 yen / kg or C$710 / lb or US$489/lb. If you think that is a lot - guess what Japanese pines retail for? I was in a high end grocery story in Tokyo last week. They were selling two medium-sized (100g perhaps) Japanese pines for 28,000 yen, or US$230 or C$333 each!

If it makes you feel any better, check out the prices at the other end of the spectrum. Chinese and Korean pines retail for between 600 yen and 2000 yen for a basket containing 3 or 4 small pines (80g?). That works out to roughly 250 and 500 yen, or let's say between U$2 and $4 a mushroom. There are no North American pines in the half dozen or so stores I visited.

To find out why, I set up meetings with purchasing managers based at the HQ of two national retail chains. Although both were familiar with the white North American matsutake, they did not sell them in their stores. Consistent grading and sizing is the main issue. Canadian pines, because of the wide range of sizes, just don't fit nicely into the small boxes favored by Japanese consumers.

By comparison, at one wholesale market I visited, the Korean and Chinese pines fit snuggly side by side in shipping crates, almost like a huge pack of cigarettes. Remember that pines are shipped by volume, not weight, so that means when you ship North American pines, you are shipping more air and less saleable product. I suppose if you have PLA soldiers guarding your patch, you have the luxury of harvesting at the optimal time, ensuring consistent sizing. In the North American free-for-all, that clearly isn't an option!

Regarding those historical prices from I downloaded two years of archives and calculated the average price for Canadian pines. It worked out to 9822 hi, 7021 med and 4748 low. At current exchange rates, that works out to C$117, C$84 and C$56. Bear in mind that these stats aren't necessarily for specific grades. The middle price is the price for the consignment with the highest total value, the high and low are the next highest and lowest valued consignments. My impression is that you shouldn't put too much weight on these prices. The reporting system is designed for all fresh commodities - it isn't designed specifically for matsutake. Also, that site only publishes prices for imported Canadian pines starting Oct 1.

I've crunched a lot of numbers, and I don't think the exporters are making obscene margins - healthy margins, yes, but not obscene. If you assume that the wholesale market price for North American pines is about Yen 6000/kg (its actually lower now), then I work out the following breakdown:

Pickers field price @C$10/lb 33% Packaging 3% Domestic&Int'l Cargo 15% Duty, Sales Tax, Clearance 7% Gross margin for buyer/exporter/importer 42% Total 100%

Remember that the buyers, exporters and importers have to cover their overhead from this 42%: rent, utilities, marketing trips, telephone, taxes, bad debts, spoiled cargo etc. And the guys putting up the capital are taking a lot of risk between the time the product is purchased from the picker and eventually sold at the market in Japan. Unlike more established commodity markets like coffee or orange juice, there are no forward or futures markets that they can use to hedge their risks. It really is a gamble. If the margins really were that astronomical, rest assured that a lot of smart money would be rushing into this business.

I've come to the conclusion that when the Japanese can source from China (average annual income something like US$100), the only way Canadians can compete is on quality. The Japanese will pay top dollar for top product. So if we all want higher prices, then the way forward is for pickers, buyers and exporters to work together to ensure that well-graded, well-packaged and fresh product arrives in Japan as soon as possible.

I'm always happy to share ideas offline as well. You can reach me at

Thanks To:

Tom Folinsbee
 Roberts Creek Wild Gourmet Ltd

Tom has asked for information (Data) concerning size (Dimensions: cap diameter, stem length, weight), and grade percentages. Please contact him at the email address above if you have info to share.

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