The agriculture ministry’s interventions in extending the cordyceps collection period while ensuring sustainable harvesting was questioned at the National Council on May 28.

“The start date for the collection of cordyceps in the permit is fixed uniformly and blatantly without considering the local conditions,” Gasa NC member, Dorji Khandu said.

He said that the collectors need at least two weeks to prepare due to varying climatic conditions, besides a one-month collection period. If communities were given more time to prepare, he said that it would help address the conflict between cordyceps collectors and forest officials in the field. “Our consultations with local government (LG) leaders of 14 gewogs in seven dzongkhags found out those preparatory days differed from gewog to gewog. Some gewogs were provided for only two days besides a one-month collection period.”

Last year, LG leaders of Dangchhu, Gangtey, Kazhi and Sephu gewogs in Wangdue had requested an extension of collection days for two weeks, the MP said.

Sanam Lyonpo (Agriculture Minister) Yeshey Penjor, said that the decision to provide adequate preparatory days for highlanders to collect cordyceps is not with the ministry but the LG.

To promote sustainable collection of cordyceps, Lyonpo said that the decision to amend the cordyceps collection period, including the preparatory time, lies with the LG leaders and the communities.

“Other than monitoring the collection sites and providing technical support, forestry officials in the gewogs cannot intervene and allocate different cordyceps collection and preparatory time. Communities and LG leaders know what is best for themselves,” he said. “If the ministry intervenes, other problems will arise like over harvesting and harvesting before time.”

Last year, due to snowfall, heavy rainfall, and other extreme weather patterns, the ministry extended cordyceps collection time by two weeks.

The MP also asked how the ministry intended to address the border demarcation issues between gewogs at the inter-dzongkhag level to reduce conflicts among cordyceps collectors.

The rules and regulation of cordycep collection, harvesting and marketing clearly state that collection of Ophiocordyceps sinensis shall be allowed only within the respective gewog boundary or administrative jurisdiction.

However, in 2018, close to 1,000 cordycep collectors from four gewogs of Kazhi, Sephu, Dangchu and Gangtey in Wangdue allegedly encroached the gewog demarcation and trespassed into Lunana.

Lyonpo said that such issues were looked after by the National Land Commission and the ministry had no authority.

Records show that an average of 400kg of Cordyceps Sinensis were auctioned every year that is worth more than Nu 200 million. It is one of the export products and contributes more than Nu 3 million in royalty every year besides business income tax to the government.

By Choki Wangmo

Edited by Tashi Dema