Nima Wangdi 

The farmers of Phobjikha in Wangdue have still not received money for the potato they sold last year. They sold their potatoes to village middlemen, who in turn took them to the border town in Jaigaon and sold them directly to their Indian counterparts.

Farmers said that potato is their only source of income.

Tashi Tshering, 34, from Phobjikha, said he got only half of the Nu 400,000 for the potatoes he sold before last year. “I sold my potatoes to the middlemen thinking I need not have to travel to Phuentsholing.

“Potato is the main cash crop for the people of Phobjikha, and we buy fertilizers, cattle feed, send children to school, buy ration, and also pay for the power tillers and the workers by selling the potatoes,” Tashi Tshering.

Dawa from Tangchi said she got the money for the potatoes she sold before last year only a few months ago. She sold some 41 quintals of potatoes, each quintal costing Nu2,200. “I sold to different middlemen last year. I do not know how much they would pay me now and when.”

Dawa had already begun laying the foundation of a new house, relying on the potato money. “Bhutan Development Bank is not giving out loans and I could not continue with house construction.”

Another villager said the middlemen have been going to Phuentsholing often to collect money from their Indian counterparts but nothing happens when it comes to paying the farmers.

A middleman, Wookpa from Tangchey, said that the Indian counterparts in Jaigaon have not made payment for the potatoes they bought.

Police detained Indian counter parts for four days after which they were again released based on the agreement that they would pay all the money in three months. “Of the money they owe, they have paid only Nu 400,000 so far.”

He said that after three months, he took the case to the Phuentsholing Drugkhag Court. “I am still following up with the case as farmers keep on pressurising me. I even approached the government through our member of Parliament but they could do nothing as of yet.”

Nima Dorji, 36, is also one of the middlemen. He said the business went well when he started it in 2021.

“I understand how important the money is for the farmers, who are totally dependent on potatoes, but the Indian counterparts are not paying. Some farmers think that I have duped them.”

He said he had to sell his cattle to pay the farmers. “I am quitting the potato business. We are trying hard to get the money. No one, includig the government has come to our rescue.”