MAHENDRANAGAR, Sept 29: Chandra Singh Karki, 30, of Ghusa VDC-8 in Darchula district, bought two kilos of yarsagumba for Rs 2.4 million from a local villager last year. But, when yarsagumba traders from Kathmandu reached Ghusa, Karki did not get more than Rs two million.
“I had to sell all my yarsagumba by incurring a loss of Rs 400,000” said Karki. He is yet to get Rs 200,000 from the Kathmandu-based yarsagumba traders. “They gave me only Rs 1.8 million last year,” said he, adding, “They had promised that they would pay me the dues this year. But, they did not turn up in my village this year.”
Having incurred a loss of Rs 600,000 in yarsagumba trade, Karki has now ended up working as a temporary teacher at Mahadev Secondary School of Ghusa. He has now vowed never ever to get involved in yarsagumba trade in the future.
Karki is not the only person who has suffered loss in yarsagumba trade. Hundreds of people - mostly those who collect yarsagumba by risking their lives and those who want to earn profits by purchasing precious herbs from local villagers and selling them to traders from Kathmandu - have incurred huge losses.
To many, the trade of yarsagumba, a high-altitude wild fungus that is also known as Himalayan Viagra, appears quite lucrative and highly profitable. But, it is risky not only for the lives of yarsagumba collectors but also for the investment of local traders. The risk involved in it largely stems from the fact that all yarsagumba collectors and traders do their business on credit. They neither get nor give full amounts for yarchagumba.
“Those who don´t want to sell their yarsagumba on credit are never able to strike deals,” says Karki. “Traders come to villages from Kathmandu and take away yarsagumba by giving just some or half the amount. They promise to pay the dues only after selling yarsagumba to international traders. But, most of them never fulfill their promises.”
As compared to village-based traders, most of yarsagumba collectors get full amounts. But, they often end up striking raw deals. “It´s hard to get appropriate prices,” said Jhalak Singh Dhami, a yarsagumba collector in Khandeshwori VDC of Darchula district. “Our yarsagumbas rot in our houses if we don´t agree to whatever prices the traders offer.”
But, like village-based traders, the Kathmandu-based traders also sell yarchagumbas on credit to international traders, mostly from China. “This whole trade depends on trust,” said Dhan Singh Jagari, who has been buying yarsagumba in Darchula and selling them to international traders in Kathmandu, adding, “When you sell yarsagumbas, you can´t be sure whether you will get full amounts later. If you get, you can continue with yarsagumba trade, but if you don´t you have no other option but to quit the trade.”
Yarsagumba, the demand of which is very high because of its aphrodisiac qualities, are found in high-altitude villages like Byans, Rapla, Ghusa, Khandeshwori, Sunsera and Sittola of Darchula district, which are covered with snow throughout the winter season. In Darchula, around 15,000 people collect 10-12 quintals of yarsagumba every year. However, the government does not get revenue on all yarsagumba. According to Api-Nampa Conservation Area, the government had received revenues from only 732 kilos of yarsagumba in the fiscal year 2011-12.