Agriculture: Some 80 farmers of Gangtey, Phobjikha and Sephu gewogs in Wangdue are worried that they may not be able to grow potatoes this year.

As the farmers failed to repay last year’s seasonal loan with the Bhutan Development Bank Ltd (BDBL), the bank could not sanction fresh loans for potato cultivation this year.

Phobjikha mangmi, Sati, said farmers could not clear the loan, as they were not paid for last year’s potatoes sold at the Sersang Agricultural Marketing auction yard in Phuentsholing.

Sati said farmers avail  of seasonal loans of about Nu 100,000 from BDBL every year in January to plant potatoes, and they repay the loans towards the end of the year after selling their produce in Phuentsholing.

The loan is valid for a year at 10 percent interest.

“It is time for farmers to start planting potatoes for which each farmer requires at least Nu 30,000 to procure fertilisers, usually bought with the seasonal loan from BDBL,” said Sati.

He said the auction yard in Phuentsholing could not pay farmers following the demonetisation move in India after which the Royal Monetary Authority had frozen INR accounts.

Sangay Dorji, a Phobji villager said he sold his potatoes in November while some of his neighbours sold in September and October last year.

Sangay Dorji said that although he understands the reason behind the delay in payment, farmers are left with no choice but to complain as they are not able to repay their loans. “Potato is the only source of income for most villagers in Phobjikha and Gangtey,” he said.

Sangay Dorji said the auction yard, however, has tried every possible way to help to the farmers. Sersang Agricultural Marketing auction yard has also allowed some farmers to take ration from its godown. “We are hopeful that we will receive the money by next week,” Sangay said.

Almost every farmer in Phobjikha and Gangtey grow potatoes on one to four acres of land. To help ease the financial burden during plantation time, farmers have been availing seasonal loans from BDBL for more than 15 years now.

The timely loan from BDBL has benefited farmers, as it helps them purchase fertilisers, pay labour charges and for hiring machineries besides covering expenses for their school going children.

Despite the fluctuating price of potatoes, a majority of farmers managed to clear their loans every year after selling their produce in Phuentsholing.

Dawa Gyelmo | Phobjikha