Collectors in Paro appeal for royalty waiver

Phub Dem  | Paro

In the worst-case scenario, the government will buy back Cordyceps Sinensis if collectors cannot sell or fetch a fair market price.

As the fungus is the only source of income for the highlanders, agriculture minister Yeshey Penjor said buying back is the last option. The government will compare cordyceps prices of the past three years, according to its grade and will pay the average price to the farmers.

To help farmers store the fungus in the event they are not able to sell it, Lyonpo said that the government would provide some capital to procure the requirements, but not interest free loans.

Following the cancellation of the cordyceps’ auction at Paro earlier this week, the agriculture minister along with other officials visited Tsento gewog and met with the collectors.

Lyonpo consulted with the local leaders of three gewogs – Tsento, Doteng and Soe and the cordyceps collectors to explore alternatives to help market the fungus.

The local leaders submitted a letter addressed to the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives on July 27. The letter proposed the ministry to either waive off the royalty and service charge of the cordyceps so that collectors can sell the fungus in an open market.    

According to the guidelines for collection or harvesting of Ophiocordyceps  Sinensis 2018, legitimate buyers pay a royalty of Nu 8,400 for every kilogram of cordyceps at the auction site. The guideline also states that the sale of the fungus outside of the designated auction period and site shall be considered as an offence if the royalty and service charges are not paid.

However, the minister said that he agreed to discuss the issue with the cabinet, as forgoing the charges was a legal matter, and the ministry had no authority to overrule the law.

He said that the ministry would come with a response whether to waive off the royalty before the auction season ends.

Collectors also proposed to conduct re-auction either at Paro or merge the auction with Thimphu scheduled to take place from August 20 to 22.

The letter mentions that the farmers were willing to sell their fungus without paying royalty and service charges, and if they fail to sell, they expect the government to buy it.

In the meantime, the local leaders said that the Royal Securities Exchange of Bhutan Limited (RSEBL) reached out to help the farmers link with the buyers through an online Farmers’ Market System (OFMS) to sell the cordyceps.

The initiative was launched to help farmers gain access to market for their farm produce in the wake of Covid-19.

The OFMS is a joint initiative of Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) and the RSEBL. The system is also an extension to the existing Bhutan Commodities Market Initiative.

However, Tsento Mangmi, Checho Gyeltshen said that it would help the farmers only if the government forgo the royalty so that they can sell the fungus legally.