Potato farmers yet to be paid by private auction yard

The demonetisation process is to blame

Agriculture: Nineteen potato farmers from Wangdue are still waiting to be paid by Sersang Agricultural Marketing, a private auction yard in Phuentsholing.

One of them is farmer Sangay Dorji, 52, from Wangdue who was at the auction yard yesterday.

“It has become very difficult for some farmers since they have to manage vehicles, pay fares and bear high expenses in logistics,” he said.

Sangay Dorji added that their source of income is vegetables, especially the potatoes they cultivate. When they are not paid on time, they face problems related to food, accommodation, and travel.

It has been more than two weeks that Sangay Dorji and other farmers have been visiting the auction yard to get paid.

Lethro, 59, another potato farmer from Khotaka in Wangdue who has not been paid said the farmers are helpless. “Problems could arise between the agent and the farmers,” he said, adding that although farmers are aware of the demonetisation move in India, they cannot wait until the cash shortage problem is solved. “We have families back at home,” he said.

Lethro added that they also have to meet loan instalments.

The farmers have submitted the matter to their representative in the National Council.

Farmers said that auction yard officials postpone payment every time they ask to be paid.

However, the auction yard is also not in a position to pay the farmers immediately since they were paid in old denomination Indian Rupee (INR) notes and the banks have frozen these accounts.

Sersang Agricultural Marketing general manager Singay Dukpa said that he understands the farmers’ grievances. We are paying the farmers in whatever capacity we can, he said.

Sersang Agricultural Marketing also appealed to the Royal Monetary Authority to allow at least 50 percent of the INR deposited to be converted. However, the authority denied the appeal.

Singay Drukpa explained that they had no option but to receive the payments in old INR note denominations during the peak season last year. Buyers also did not have other means of payment after November 8 last year when the demonitisation process was announced.

Had the auction yard not accepted the old INR notes, auctions would not have been possible and the buyers would not have been able to purchase the potatoes, he explained.

Singay Drukpa also pointed out that the company does not have an overdraft facility like the Food Corporation of Bhutan Ltd (FCBL). FCBL has been provided Nu 100 million (M) to allow it to make payments within three days of purchase.

Singay Dukpa said that Sersang Agricultural Marketing could not avail the facility from the government. “We are managing from our own overdraft facility,” he said. “We need to consider high interest rates.”

Meanwhile, after 11 days of waiting to be paid for 53 sacks of potatoes, Chogyal has given up and will return home today. “I have wasted a lot of money waiting,” he said. “I have now bought a bus ticket to return home.”

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Additional reporting by 

Gyemkith Lepcha, intern

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