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Fungi: Uraps fetched better prices for Sangay Shamu (tricholoma matsutake) mushrooms over the last year.

However, production has been decreasing further and last year’s yield was the lowest it’s been in the past 15 years.

Uraps sold the mushroom for Nu 350/kg last year. They are selling it for Nu 400/kg this year. Mastutake is the main source of cash income for the Uraps.

Tashi Dorji, 57, from Pangkhar, who was returning from the forest towards the afternoon carrying a sack of Sangay Shamu, said the yield is low this year. “Only one mushroom has grown in the place where two mushrooms grew last year,” he said.

He pointed out that the poor yield is a result of inadequate snowfall last winter. He collected some 90 kilogrammes of Matsutake this year.

Competition is rife. Most villagers go alone for collection and have their own secret spots which they go to great lengths to conceal. Some head to the forest as early as 4am.

Tashi Dorji earned about Nu 100,000 last year. He does not think he can earn more this year. “I am selling for higher price per kilogramme this year,” he said.

The Uraps are selling Sangay Shamu for Nu 400/kg this year

The Uraps are selling Sangay Shamu for Nu 400/kg this year

Veteran mushroom collectors blame new collectors for damaging mushroom growing sites by tilling the areas. Mushrooms don’t grow when the surface is disturbed, say veteran collectors.

Pema Norbu, 31, from Madrong is one of the regular Matsutake collectors. He attributed the poor production to inadequate rainfall this year. He said people don’t harvest mushrooms properly and dig until they expose the roots of trees.

He said people sell mushrooms for Nu 450 to 500 a kilogramme this year. He earned around Nu 35,000 selling Matsutake last year. “The mushroom collecting season is ending but I am expecting the mushrooms to be there for a longer period as the seventh month of the Bhutanese calendar is double its length this year,” he said.

Another villager said he collected at least four kilogrammes of mushrooms daily last year. But this year he managed only around three kilogrammes daily this year. Some said they could not even collect a kilogramme of the mushroom this time.

Thinley Penjor, 43, from Pangkhar has already finished selling the mushrooms he collected for the day. He said collectors faced market accessibility problems even if they managed to collect a few kilogrammes.

“We have to sit by the road and finish selling them before it rots,” he said. He added that dried Matsutake fetches better prices but sells less.

He said most are not interested in collecting other mushrooms as the mushroom festival got canceled this year. Villagers sold both dry and fresh mushrooms at the festival.

“We sold dried Sangay Shamu for Nu 9,000 a kilogramme, Ngangla Shamu for Nu 6,000/kg and Nu 3,000/kg of mixed mushrooms during the festival,” he said. The annual mushroom festival that usually takes place in August was cancelled due to the second round of local government elections.

Dried Sangay Shamu during other times is sold at Nu 7,000/kg.

Uraps have identified 30 different species of mushrooms growing in the area. They said Nagangla Shamu used to be the costliest mushroom until they learned about the medicinal value in Matsutake. “Nagangla Shamu is tastier than the Sangay Shamu,” a villager said.

Former Ura mangmi, Karma Wangdi said Matsutake earned farmers a better income than potatoes if they managed to collect a large volume. “But the market needs to be consolidated,” he said.

Ura sells around 3,000 kilogrammes of Matsutake every season.

Nima Wangdi, Ura

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