Yarsha harvest shrinks due to poor snowfallsThe Yarshagumba harvest has fallen this season, raising concerns about a possible drop in the income of a large number of people who rely on the high-altitude wild fungus, also known as Himalayan Viagra, for their livelihood.
The Yarshagumba harvest has fallen this season, raising concerns about a possible drop in the income of a large number of people who rely on the high-altitude wild fungus, also known as Himalayan Viagra, for their livelihood.
The herb believed to possess aphrodisiac properties sold for Rs2.2 million per kilo last year. Locals and government officials attributed the decline in output to poor winter snowfalls.
“Everyday, 100-200 Yarsha collectors are returning from Bukipatan, the collection site in Rukum,” said DSP Rupesh Kumar Khadka. “Not only Bukipatan, people from Rukum who have temporarily migrated to Dolpa to pick Yarsha are also returning.”
During the annual May-June picking season, thousands of villagers travel by mule and yak to high pastures to collect the tiny buds that protrude from the ground. In 2014, a total of 152,200 individuals went to collect the valuable herb.
Gokul Tulachan, a Yarsha collector in Rukum, earned Rs60,000 last year. He has not been so lucky this season. “I have collected only 20 Yarsha plants this season,” said Tulachan who returned after only 10 days in the mountains. “I will not be able to recover the Rs10,000 I spent on my journey.”
Hundreds of people from Rukum temporarily migrate to the mountain region of the district to collect the herb. Nearly 30 schools were closed in eastern Rukum as students took time off from studies to collect the herb.
This year, the collection season opened on May 28. A Yarsha festival was organized this year too. Police estimate that 30 percent of the collectors have returned so far.
Two weeks have passed since the season kicked off, but business deals are yet to start. In the past year, traders would start transactions during the first week of the season.
Yarsha fetched for Rs2.2 million per kg last year, down from Rs2.8 million in the previous year. Collectors fear that this year prices could drop again.
Jaganath Prasad Jaiswal, a district forest officer, said that the harvest this season had shrunk due to minimal winter snowfall. “We see that this year’s season will not last long.”
The Yarsha harvest in Dolpa was poor too. Ram Chaudhary, a conservation officer at Shey Phoksundo National Park in Dolpa, said that Yarsha collector numbers had dropped sharply this year.
According to him, around 5,000 people entered the park this season to collect Yarsha. “The number is a three-fold decrease.”
Collecting Yarsha earns more money for residents than other economic activities, according to a Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) study.
An individual earns Rs103,000 per year on average by selling the herb, higher than the average per capita income from other economic activities, the central bank study shows. A family earns about Rs277,000 per year from Yarsha which is equivalent to 56 percent of its total annual income.
According to the report, the herb fetched $100,000 (Rs10.7 million) per kg in China and $130,000 (Rs13.92 million) per kg in Singapore. The largest market is China, while the herb is also sold in Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand, Japan, the UK and the US, according to NRB.