Saturday, 10 May 2008

Cordyceps collection liberalised

There will be more hands picking Yartsa Goenbub (Cordyceps sinesis) this summer with the agriculture ministry liberalising the number of people from each household to collect a prized source of income for Bhutanese highland farmers.

In the past, only one head above 18 years old per family was allowed to collect the fungus, which costs as much has Nu 90,000 a kg at auction yards.

The decision might have turned out otherwise from what conservationists wanted at a meeting to discuss the sustainable management of cordyceps. But, according to representatives of farmers at the meeting, a single pair of hand could not collect much during the month-long collection period. “What is left is collected by poachers from across the border,” said a representative from Sephu gewog in Wangduephodrang. “It’s a big loss because the cordyceps are collected by poachers,” he said.

Farmers also requested a longer collection duration, but authorities refused on sustainability grounds. However, unlike in the past, the community will decide the start date for the collection. “In the past, the collection period was counted from the day collection permits were issued,” said another representative. “This leaves about a week for actual collection because a lot of time is wasted on paper work procedures and travel.”

The meeting also decided that all cordyceps collected should be sold at auctions without negotiations. This came after exporters complained about fraudulent activities at auction markets. “Some dealers buy the cordyceps before the auction and then manipulate the price during open auctions,” said an exporter. “The rules need to be streamlined.”

Auction rules and regulations will be revisited for amendments and submitted to the agriculture ministry. A royalty of 10 percent of the final bid or Nu 7,000, whichever is lower will be charged from this season, according to officials.

To harvest cordyceps sustainably, the medicinal and aromatic plant at Yusipang, Thimphu, carried out research on the species. The head of the research, Tshitila, said that, if not controlled, farmers would over-harvest cordyceps, which could threaten its production level. “Large-scale harvesting of cordyceps would be a threat to its occurrence, as the highly matured spores are actually the main part of the cordycep, which multiplies the growth of the species,” said Tshitila.

Meanwhile, a proposal to strengthen security by providing arms and ammunition to forestry officials will be submitted to the Lhengye Zhungtshog.

No comments: