Harvest: Sangay Shamu (tricholoma matsutake) yield in Bumthang this year has been at its all-time low in about 15 years ago.

Uraps begin Matsutake collection in July every year. Ura is also considered the hotspot for the mushroom and celebrates Matsutake festival every August. Ura has over 30 specimens of edible mushrooms.

Matsutake is one of the chief sources of income for the communities here. The communities use income from sale of Matsutake to meet children’s expenses, basic essentials and to conduct annual rituals, among others.

This year, however, despite heavy rainfall Matsutake yield has been one of the poorest in many years.

“The yield hasn’t been good compared with last year’s,” said Sumthrang Thamu Tshogpa’s chairperson, Tenzin, adding that this year’s yield has been the lowest to date.

While Sumthrang saw the highest yield last year, fetching Nu 0.7 million, the villagers’ income from the sale of Matsutake never dipped below Nu 0.5 million before.

Household income from the sale of Matsutake has dipped to less than Nu 30,000 this year. This year Sumthrang collected just 1,000kg compared to about 3,000kg before.

“Fifteen collectors from Sumthrang who used to collect at least Nu 0.5 million worth of Matsutake on average for the last 15 years just earned Nu 0.3M this year,” Tenzin said.

A kilogramme of fresh Matsutake fetches Nu 300. The sun-dried Matsutake fetches Nu 5,000 a kilogram. This year, Sumthrang sold only about 10 kilograms of sun-dried Matsutake against about 30kg before.

“People found only three mushrooms in places where they could find more than six earlier,” a collector from Sumthrang Lhawang Dhendup said.

Those who collected six kilograms of mushroom last year just came back with three this year.

Even Pangkhar, Ura and Shingkhar, which also rely on Sangay Shamu for income saw meager yield this year.

“The yield hasn’t been good in the entire gewog,” Ura mangmi, Karma Wangdi said.

If the mushroom yields decreases by the year, the villagers are going to lose one of the chief sources of income, said Tenzin.

Collectors like Lhawang Dhendup attributed the poor yield to excessive rainfall. “Matsutake needs moderate rain and sunlight for better yield.”

Tenzin attributed the poor yield to outsiders from Chamkhar, civil servants in Ura, and national workforce foraging the forests for mushrooms.

The villagers blame outsiders for damaging Matsutake habitat. Collectors say that outsiders pluck even budding mushroom.

“There is little effort from villagers as well as regulating agencies to help control outsiders from combing the forests for mushrooms,” Tenzin said, adding that an increasing amount of waste disposal by random collectors in forests might also be contributing to poor yield.

Tempa Wangdi, Ura