Prices of yarsagumba have almost halved this year, but there is no shortage of buyers for the herb which grows in the wild in the Himalayan foothills and is used as an aphrodisiac. Traders expect prices to rise in the future and are ready pay whatever the herb collectors demand.
Yarsagumba presently costs Rs800,000 to Rs900,000 per kg, a steep drop from last year’s Rs1.4 million to Rs1.6 million per kg. The drop in prices has upset local collectors of the herb and traders. Yarsagumba pickers said the collection was low this year as the season began late.
Collector Sher Singh Dhami from Dhaulakot-4 said that he had not sold his harvest due to a decline in prices, and was waiting for an appropriate time when prices go up “I am expecting prices to rise, but they are in a downward spiral presently,” he complained.
Dhami, who has collected 125 gm of yarsagumba, depends on the income from selling the herb to pay for his living costs and children’s expenses. According to him, he has collected yarsagumba worth Rs173,000. “Both the collection and prices are low this year, and it will be difficult for me to run the household with the money I expect to make from it,” Dhami said.
Traders had purchased yarsagumba at Rs1.2 million per kg in the forest last April. Collection has come down at Chaimitila forest in Darchula district which is the largest producer of the herb, according to Dhanraj Joshi from Hikila VDC-8. He had picked 200 yarsagumba plants last year, but this year he could collect just 125 plants as production had dropped.
Narendra Bahadur Bam from the Earcoat area said that yarsagumba was sold at Rs1.5 million per kg in his own village last year. According to him, traders have not fixed fix prices this year due to the downward trend as they are expecting prices to rise. The largest buyers of Nepali yarsagumba are Chinese traders. But they have not set procurement prices yet, said Govinda Dadal, chairman of the District Medicinal Herbs Traders’ Association.
Local prices of yarsagumba are fixed on the basis of prices in the Chinese market. Locals said that few traders had come from outside the district this year compared to previous years. The Api Namba Preservation Area, which gives clearance for the export of the product, was late in endorsing its management working plan.
It started issuing export clearances only from the end of July, and so far only 26 kg of yarsagumba has been cleared. During the same period last year, the preservation area had cleared 180kg.
Yarsagumba is collected in Byas, Rapla, Ghusa, Khandeshwori, Sitola and Gujar village development committees. The production of Yarsagumba has dropped in all the VDCs except Byas, according to collectors.