…farmers say delay in payment is frustrating

Phub Dem 

More than 100 farmers in Naja and Dogar gewogs of Paro still await payment for the cabbage they sold to the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives (DAMC) in July of this year.

DAMC bought the cabbage from the farmers as an interim measure before the Food Corporation of Bhutan began buying the produce.

According to Wanakha tshogpa Jamphel Dorji, farmers from the two chiwogs under Naja gewog, and some farmers from Dogar gewog, have not been paid yet. He said that it has been more than two months, and people have started posing questions to gewog officials.

Dorji said that some farmers have been paid, but many have yet to receive payment. “Farmers and local government officials have been following up, but many farmers still haven’t been paid.”

According to Dorji, DAMC officials said that they were waiting for a budget release from the finance ministry. The pending amount was to be disbursed soon afterwards, but there are farmers still awaiting payment.

Cabbage is the only source of income for most of the farmers. Jamphel Dorji said that the cabbage growers are facing significant challenges to make ends meet. “Some borrow money to meet urgent needs, promising to repay the debt as soon as DAMC pays them.”

Dorji said that although for many farmers, the anticipated payment is for only around 30 bags of cabbages, clearing the amount would help them.

Zhangko, a farmer from Wanakha, sold 60 bags of cabbage worth around Nu 35,000. He said he has been using social media to communicate with DAMC and gewog officials.

Zhangko said that the farmers have to repay the money they’ve borrowed, and the delay is causing substantial losses to the farmers in interest.

Another farmer from Zursuna, Lhab Tshering, said that DAMC collected about 5,000 bags of cabbages after farmers sought help from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests when they could not export their produce.

He said that farmers are disappointed with the delay in payment.

A DAMC official said the department was asked to collect cabbages before the FCB could step in. He stated that DAMC had a limited budget for the intervention, and the amount was exhausted within a few days.

According to the DAMC official, the department was then instructed to buy the produce back on credit. The interim measure reportedly concluded after two weeks. “The officials compiled and submitted the expenses incurred to the government to repay and cover the cost of the intervention.”

He further stated that the department has insufficient funds to clear the credit, and is waiting for the government to release the necessary amount. If DAMC receives the amount, he said, it will disburse payment immediately.

The official claimed that almost 95 percent of the cabbages were rotten at the collection centre, and those in sellable condition were exported.

“We, as the buyer, never got paid the full amount as the produce rotted on the way and couldn’t be sold. It was not an effective measure,” he said.

DAMC reportedly accrued a credit of around Nu 12 million to establish collection points, payment to farmers, and transportation charges.

Edited by Tshering Palden