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Bhutan sees unprecedented dip in buyers for its “magic fungi” cordyceps

-Avishek Sengupta

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Bhutan’s rare and expensive fungi, Cordyceps Seninsis or as locally called, Yartsa Goenbub.

Usually, around this time of the month, the auction centers in the Himalayan country, especially in Paro, about 50 km from capital Thimpu,  used to see a huge rush and demand for Cordyceps, that is often described as an exotic medicinal mushroom in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine.

The cordyceps auction failed to take place because there were only a few buyers 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 proposing to either postpone or merge the auctions 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.

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. Last year, the rate of cordyceps for a collector, was as high as Nu 100,000 (Rs, 1,00,000) from selling 900 pieces of cordyceps.

The fungi are used to treat coughs, chronic bronchitis, respiratory disorders, kidney disorders, nighttime urination, male sexual problems, anemia, irregular heartbeat, high cholesterol, liver disorders, dizziness, weakness, ringing in the ears, unwanted weight loss, and opium addiction.

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