Tea, and coffee development offices lack funds to help farmers in eastFarmers lament the government has not prioritised tea and coffee development programmes.
The National Tea and Coffee Development Board’s office in Phidim gets rare visitors seeking services.
The office is tasked with establishing nurseries, planting saplings, testing soil, providing technical support and training to farmers.
“As we don’t have the budget, we are unable to carry out works as per the mandate,” said Ful Maya Angbo, chief of the office. The office currently has 10 employees.
The employees, too, have stopped visiting farmers. “Even farmers, who come to the office, are not getting help,” said Angbo.
“Every time we visit the office with proposals for programmes to assist small farmers, they send us back citing lack of funds,” said Tanka Rai, a farmer in Phidim-3. “The farmers are in need of a machine for drying tea leaves. There is no help.”
According to Angbo, nearly 50 percent of the budget allocated for the office is spent on the salary of its employees.
“In the current fiscal year, Rs8.3 million has been allocated to the office,” said Angbo. “More than Rs4 million will be spent on the salary of employees.”
“Moreover, the government recently slashed Rs700,000 from the remaining Rs4.3 million,” Angbo added. “We are in the process of signing some programmes on the basis of the available budget.”
The situation at the National Tea and Coffee Development Board’s extension office at Hile, Dhankuta is no different.
Besides Dhankuta, the office has jurisdiction over the tea and coffee extension works at Bhojpur, Khotang, Sankhuwasabha and Morang.
But, the office currently has a single employee.
Basanta Kumar Rajbhandari, the acting chief at the office, said that he has to sometimes hire an accountant from the Tehrathum office as the same person cannot perform the task of project chief and accountant at the same time.
The government declared Jhapa, Ilam, Panchthar and Dhankuta as tea zones four decades ago.
Commercial tea farming is done on nearly 17,400 hectares of land in Phidim.
The number of coffee farmers has also been on the rise, of late.
Farmers lament the government has not prioritised tea and coffee development programmes which have become a sustainable source of income for hundreds of farmers.