Uttarakhand may adopt Bhutan model to regulate Himalayan Viagra extraction and trade | dehradun | Hindustan Times
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Uttarakhand may adopt Bhutan model to regulate Himalayan Viagra extraction and trade

Yarsagumba is a medicinal fungus grown in Himalayas known for its aphrodisiac and energy-boosting properties and fetches upwards of Rs 10 lakh per kg.

dehradun Updated: Jul 22, 2017 06:57 IST
Nihi Sharma
Nihi Sharma
Hindustan Times, Dehradun
Himalayan Viagra,Uttarakhand,Bhutan
A collector plucking a Yarsagumba, also known as Keera Jadi, from a field in Kumaon hills.(HT Photo)

Uttarakhand may follow Bhutan’s footsteps to legalise collection and regulate trade of Yarsagumba, a medicinal fungus grown in Himalayas known for its aphrodisiac and energy-boosting properties and which fetches upwards of Rs 10 lakh per kg.

Popularly known as ‘keera-jadi’ or Himalayan Viagra, Yarsagumba is widely used in Chinese medicines as an energy booster and to cure various serious ailments including cancer.

The fungus, which is an association of a plant and an insect, fetches value of Rs 10 lakh per kilo. And beyond the border, the rate simply increases 10 times, say experts.

As per a report of Nepal Rastra Bank released in January 2016, about 83-183 tonnes of the fungus are collected globally yielding a revenue of USD 5-11 billion per year.

Read more: Chamoli emerging as ‘Yarsagumba’ smuggling hub

China has been reported to be the highest producer and meets 95% of global demand followed by Nepal that reports production of about 2.8 tonnes and Bhutan 1.5 tonnes, as per the report.

Caught Smuggling
  • July 12, 2017: About 1kg Yarsagumba seized from Chamoli
  • Oct 26, 2016: 2.3kg seized from Ramnagar
  • July 7, 2015: 2 arrested from Dehradun with 700gm Yarsagumba
  • Oct 16, 2014: 4kg Yarsagumba seized on India-Nepal border at Tanakpur in Champwat district
  • July 4, 2012: 3 arrested with royalty papers of Yarsagumba. They didn’t disclose where they had sold the Himalayan aphrodisiac
  • Dec 12, 2012: A couple, residents of Pithoragarh, held smuggling 1.2gm Yarsagumba and 3 bear gall bladders

In Bhutan, the government gives rights to bonafide residents for its extraction. This helps in checking illegal collection and conservation. Thereafter, the government also provides free laboratories where villagers can refine their produce by drying, cleaning, and even package them.

The collectors must then register their stock with the government which provides them a certificate for selling it. The government also organises auction for collectors, providing them a market, against which the government charges a percentage (4.50% in 2013) of the sale.

If collectors are not satisfied with the government auction, they can sell it to anyone inside the country, after taking due receipt of the stock.

Bhutan model in Uttarakhand

The Bhutan model was proposed by Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board to chief secretary this month.

“I have proposed this model which has been successful in Bhutan,” Rakesh Shah, chairman, Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board, told HT.

About 10% share of the government is submitted from each collector in state.

Currently, Yarsagumba is widely found in the higher reaches of Chamoli and Pithoragarh districts of Uttarakhand, which extracts five quintals each season.

According to Harish Dhami, former chairman of UFDC and MLA of Dharchula in Pithoragarh, more than 20,000 people in about 300 villages in Pithoragarh and Chamoli district extract this fungus.

Uttarakhand Forest Development Corporation (UFDC) is responsible for marketing the fungus collected from protected areas and it has declared Rs 50,000 as the rate for a kilo of the fungus.

Yarsagumba, a rare aphrodisiac fungus also known as Himalayan Viagra is valued between silver and Gold in various Asian markets.

STS Lepcha, managing director, UFDC, says the corporation has “not officially sold any stock of Yarsagumba in the last four years.”

The reason is attributed to the lower price band, due to which villagers do not sell their collection to the department, and instead smuggle it to Nepal and Delhi where they find a high price.

While there are no records of the total collection during the season, only a few seizure incidents report its smuggling.

Illegal trade of Yarsa is a pressing problem for Uttarakhand as unlike its neighbouring Himalayan states, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir, it shares border with Nepal and China.

“If you cross a river here, you are in a different country,” Shah rued, adding that implementing the Bhutan model will help the government to have a record of extraction, besides generating revenue.

“It will further curb illegal extraction as locals would be protective about their produce,” he said.