Mae Hong Son villagers reap profits from collecting mushrooms

Photo courtesy of KhaoSod

Mae Hong Son villagers are seizing the annual opportunity to gather mushrooms known as the barometer earthstar, earning up to 2,000 baht per day. These mushrooms, known for their white flesh and sweet, crunchy taste, have become a significant economic driver in the region.

Throughout the early rainy season, Mae Hong Son’s forests yield an abundance of barometer earthstar mushrooms, fetching prices as high as 100 baht per litre. This has prompted local villagers, many of whom are economically disadvantaged, to venture into the forest to collect the mushrooms and sell them, significantly boosting their household income. The thriving business of exporting these mushrooms has subsequently expanded.

Nattawi Sereetanapong and her 18 year old daughter from Hmong Pong subdistrict revealed that gathering the mushrooms offers an additional income stream for villagers. However, the mushrooms are not available year-round but only sporadically.

“We have limited income and must rely on nature. Waiting for government aid isn’t feasible. Collecting barometer earthstar mushrooms can yield one bucket per day, equivalent to 20 litres, resulting in daily earnings of 2,000 baht. Everyone in the village participates, though some collect more than others, depending on their luck in finding the mushrooms.”

Local vendors purchase the mushrooms from villagers and then sell them to markets in Chiang Mai and Lamphun at relatively high prices. Despite the high costs, the mushrooms often sell out within an hour, with some buyers purchasing up to 5 litres at a time.

Currently, the price of barometer earthstar mushrooms has decreased slightly to 80 to 100 baht per litre, depending on the mushrooms’ freshness and daily availability. The price fluctuates, reflecting its status as Mae Hong Son’s top forest-based economic product, generating turnover in the hundreds of thousands to millions of baht. Villagers can collect between 10 to 20 litres per day, earning substantial income during the in-season period, which occurs only once a year.

Barometer earthstar mushrooms are most abundant after the May to June rains. The downpours signal villagers to prepare their digging tools and head into the forest to collect the mushrooms. Sura Sak Panya, head of the Mae Hong Son postal office, noted that the current mushroom boom has led to the postal service handling 800 kilogrammes to 1 tonne of mushrooms daily, valued at over 100,000 baht per day. Deliveries to northern provinces take one day, while those to the northeast and the south take two days.

Heavenly mushrooms

Prasert Pradit, President of Mae Hong Son Cultural Council, described the mushrooms as “heavenly mushrooms” for grassroots communities, providing both food and substantial income. He highlighted that the mushrooms help cover various expenses, including clothing, school fees, debts, and village fund contributions, reported KhaoSod.

Prasert speculated that this year’s yield would be high due to favourable weather conditions, with sunny days and evening rains, and hail in some areas.

“The old belief is that areas without forest fires don’t yield mushrooms, but when the forest is burned, mushrooms abound. Villagers trust this observation more than academic studies.”

Northern Thailand NewsThailand News

Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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