Fungus: Unhappy with a huge decline in the price of cordyceps fungus this year, 33-year-old Wangchuk from Laya plans to go to Lunana to trade the fungus with rice.

Wangchuk and his wife could make only Nu 90,000 from cordyceps this year. They spent more than two months collecting the fungus. This is three times lower than what they could make before.

“Income from cordyceps fell below Nu 400,000,” said Wangchuk. “Income from this year’s collection is not enough see the family through the year.”

Wangchuk said the fungus harvest wasn’t good this year. The couple could collect only about 900 pieces of cordyceps. The price of the fungus dropped because of quality and poor growth. The fungus today gets just about Nu 80 apiece.

Wangchuk has 30 yaks and seven horses. With huge decline of income from the cordyceps, he is now forced to trade the precious fungus with rice. A 25kg rice that costs Nu 900-1400 from Punakha is sold at Nu 3,000 in Lunana. Likewise, all other food items are sold at a price at least three times more than their price in places like Punakha and Wangdue.

“I have stored about 28 bags of rice to be taken up,” said Wangchuk.

However, hardship that people go through for some extra income is huge. It includes walking more than seven days on steep and difficult slopes. Horses die.

Lhaba, another collector from Laya, said that people are expecting more tourists in the village. Porters charge about Nu 500 per day per horse.

Laya Mangmi Tshewang said that this year’s cordyceps collection went down by about 40 percent. Majority of collectors could get only about 100,000 this year.

Phurba, a Layap, got Nu 550,000. This figure is by much lesser than what he could make before.

Decline in collection and price of cordyceps could have major impact on the lives of Layaps, said Tshewang. People of Lunana have also faced a similar situation, said Lunana gup Gyem Tshering. Both quality and quantity of cordyceps have gone down this year.

Although Layaps rear yaks and horses as alternative source of income, only about 70 households out of about 250 have yaks. Modernity has penetrated into the village. Several families have sold yaks after legalisation of cordyceps collection. Cordyceps collection has been the major source of income since 2004. It has improved livelihood of the people.

More than 1,250 people from Laya and Lunana were given cordyceps collection permits.

The cordyceps auction for Laya and Khatey gewogs was held in Gasa on July 14 and 15; for Lunana and Khamey gewogs, it was held in Tashithang on July 16 and 17.

By Dawa Gyelmo, Wangdue