This year’s first Cordyceps auction yesterday in Tsento, Paro ended with drama of sorts when the woman with the best collection withdrew leaving half a dozen sellers displeased.
The bid for the A category or largest Cordyceps had reached Nu 645,000 a kilogram when Sherab Wangmo, who was expecting Nu 700,000 a kg for her Cordyceps, pulled out.
The highest bidder then withdrew his bid and refused to buy the rest.
Sherab Wangmo had brought 1,500 pieces of Cordyceps weighing 212 grams. Each piece would have sold for Nu 138.
“With this quality, I can get a much better price in town or outside the auction,” said 30-year-old from Soe, Thimphu.
The buyers then asked the Tsento gup Dolay Tshering, the bid master, to redo the bidding.
Sellers, from the Tsento and Doteng, protested. They feared the bid would not reach even half of the previous amount. They said that when the Cordyceps belonging to numerous sellers were categorised as A, why should a withdrawal of one lead to cancellation of the bid.
Buyers argued that not all the Cordyceps were of the same quality.
“We’re willing to buy those of average quality along with the good ones,” a buyer said. “When the good one is taken out, it’s not worth investing so much in the average quality ones.”
The sellers argued that the selection committee should not have clubbed the poor quality ones with the best ones.
“That’s not our fault,” a seller from Tsento said.
Another seller said that a few sellers withdrew from earlier bids on the day but bidding was not repeated.
A buyer, Sonam, said that the bid master should have explained the rules at the beginning of each auction of each lot.
Forestry and agriculture marketing department officials had to intervene and negotiate.
Paro division’s chief forestry officer, Kaka Tshering, explained that rules allowed the buyer to withdraw his or her bid.
“If the rule says so, then no one has any authority to do otherwise,” he said.
Cordyceps auctioning guideline 2014 states that once the produce is withdrawn, the respective gewog shall not allow the individual to participate again. He or she has to pay all the necessary service charge, royalty, get the necessary documents, and switch to a different auction site.
“Accordingly, the buyer can decide on buying the remaining produce in the lot after the withdrawal of a few produce from the lot,” the guideline states.
The bid resumed shortly. But this time it went up to Nu 480,000. The sellers rushed to collect their goods when the bid master announced the count down.
Of the 247 who took permit to collect the Cordyceps, 229 turned up to sell their produce and collected Nu 2.585 million for their 6.716kg of Cordyceps from 34 buyers.
Soe gewog had the highest number of sellers with 108 highlanders putting out their produce for sale. Tsento gewog had 106, and Doteng gewog 33.
The highest price was Nu 970,000 a kg and the lowest Nu 315,000.
Dorji Rinchen from Soe withdrew from the auction.
“I’ll sell it in the market. If I’m lucky, it will get me Nu 300 to Nu 400 a piece,” he said.
Tshering Dorji, 48, from Doteng gewog earned about Nu 30,000 and was happy with the price. It is his 14th year of collection. The highest he earned was Nu 50,000.
“The price is good for the kind of product because the quality was poor and small,” he said.
Foresters said Cordyceps from this region is usually of poor quality and did not fetch good price. Marketing strategy changed this year and conducted the first auction in Paro.
Soe gup Kencho Dorji said the highlanders did not get adequate time to dry and prepare.
“The collection time ended on July 4, so most of the more than 100 collectors of 48 households could not produce properly dried Cordyceps,” the gup said.
Wangchuk from Wangchuk Y Exports bid the highest.
“Most of the worms were small, but I’m happy that I got the largest and best,” he said.
The highlanders pay Nu 8,000 a kg as royalty to the government.
Three individuals from each household can collect Cordyceps. Cordyceps collection was legalised in 2004 by His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo as a kidu to the highlanders.
Tshering Palden | Paro