Yarsa smuggling up due to lax border controls

- KRISHNA PRASAD GAUTAM, RAJ BAHADUR SHAHI, Surkhet / Mugu
More than 150 kg of contraband yarsa worth millions is exported annually to Tibet from different parts of upper Dolpa, said an official at the Forest Office

Aug 29, 2018-Smuggling of yarsagumba into Tibet, China has risen due to lax control at the customs offices in Dolpa and Mugu. As a result of the illegal trade, the government is losing millions of rupees in revenue, officials said.

The herb is the world’s most expensive medicinal fungus. It can fetch as much as $100 per gram on the Chinese market, making it more expensive than gold, according to reports. Dubbed Himalaya Viagra, the herb is also used to cure anemia, chest and lung infections, tuberculosis, Hepatitis B and kidney and liver diseases.

Hordes of villagers from Mugu, Dolpa, Rukum, Jajarkot and surrounding districts assemble in the highlands of Dolpa and Mugu with blankets, tents and cooking utensils during the picking season which lasts from June to July.

More than 150 kg of contraband yarsa is exported annually to Tibet from different parts of upper Dolpa, said an official at the Forest Office.

Local representatives said that the government was losing millions in revenue annually as a result. Om Bahadur Buda, mayor of Tripura Sundari Municipality, said stopping the illegal trade had become a big challenge.  

“Traders have been using illegal channels particularly in the highland areas known as Patan,” said Basanta Kumar Shahi, information officer at the office. The office collected Rs250,000 in taxes on the yarsa trade in the last fiscal year.

As traders are required to complete a lengthy documentation process and have to pay Rs25,000 per kg of yarsa as tax, they are reluctant to come under the legal tax system.

Many local collectors themselves are involved in the illegal herb trade. Mugu has been recording transaction of Rs320 million annually in yarsa trade.

According to the Forest Office, Mugu, around 200 kg of yarsa is collected from the highland areas annually. Around 10-15 kg of the total harvest is sold in the country while the rest is exported to Tibet, said Gurusyanggyap Lama, a yarsa trader.

The herb fetches Rs1.2 million to Rs1.5 million per kg in the highlands, he said. Traders can get Rs1.8 million to Rs2 million per kg by exporting yarsa to Tibet. More than 150 kg of yarsa was collected in Mugu this season, said Tashi Lama, another trader.

Forest officials said that the number of people trading yarsa legally had also been increasing. Santosh Kumar Jha, chief of division forest, said traders had been exporting the herb through legal channels, and as result, revenue had increased compared to past years.

The forest consumers community charges Rs500 to Rs1,000 per yarsa picker as entry fee.

Published: 29-08-2018 08:21

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