…only three buyers showed up at the yard

Phub Dem | Paro

The rare and expensive fungi, Cordyceps Seninsis or Yartsa Goenbub that usually witness a huge rush and demand at open auctions is suddenly seeing no market this year.

The cordyceps auction failed to take place because there were only a few buyers yesterday in Paro. The quality of cordyceps at the auction was also another factor.

Without buyers, the local leaders of Tsento and Doteng in Paro and Soe in Thimphu said they would write to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests seeking a way forward to sell their cordyceps.

Tsento Mangmi Chencho Gyeltshen said that local leaders in consultation with the collectors decided to propose to the ministry to either postpone or merge the auction with Thimphu’s.

He said that the sellers wanted some more time to study the cordyceps auction in other dzongkhags, as they were not happy with the number of buyers.

At Tsento yesterday, cordyceps collectors were shocked to see only three exporters present at the auction yard. They waited until noon for buyers to turn up.

Only twenty buyers had registered with the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives.

Buyers and sellers blamed the Covid-19 pandemic for poor business this year. The buyers say that the fungus quality was “mediocre”—of C grade.

Most buyers didn’t turn up for the auction this time. According to Deki Yangzom who has been exporting cordyceps for the last 10 years, it was difficult to export the fungus and there was no local market due to the pandemic.   

Storing the fungus is another challenge.

If the fungus is stored for a year, she said that there was a 30 per cent weight loss. And the buyers have to pay monthly interest rates for the loans they take to buy the fungus until it is exported. “They can’t expect last year’s price, as the situation is different now. We can’t directly sell it.”

There are 351 registered sellers from three gewogs considering each household is allowed to have three collectors. The year’s cordyceps auction begins from Paro.

Cordyceps is one of the major sources of income for the highlanders.

Chimi Dorji, a collector, used to make Nu 100,000 from selling 900 pieces of cordyceps. He is doubtful now.

Pema Om from Soe said it was difficult to get to the auction yard in the first place. “It is a waste of time and money having to travel all the way from Soe.”

Collectors from Nubri in Soe saw a bountiful harvest this year. Tshering Nidup collected around 1,000 pieces this year. “I expected to make a huge income from the fungus this year. Forget about the profit, I am worried if I can even sell the fungus.