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Tajik Cotton Growers Cannot Repay Bank Debts

The cotton harvest in Tajikistan

The cotton harvest in Tajikistan

QURGHON-TEPPA, Tajikistan -- Cotton farmers in Tajikistan say that the reduced market for their product means they are unable to repay loans to Tajik banks.

Nurali Turdiev, a farmer in southern Khatlon Province, told RFERL's Tajik Service that he cannot repay his $3,500 debt to the bank because he cannot sell his cotton.

There are some 56,000 cotton farmers in Khatlon Province who borrowed a total of some 550 million somoni ($142 million) from local commercial banks with an annual interest rate of 25 percent.

Khatlon Governor Ghaybulloh Afzalov said all farmers should repay their debts or banks will confiscate their property.

Agriculture Ministry officials support Afzalov's position.

Tajik Agroinvestbank analyst Bahrom Sharifov told RFE/RL that Tajik legislation does not allow for the confiscation and sale of land, and the government should propose another solution.

Last week, Agroinvestbank asked the Tajik government to postpone a debt repayment untill the end of the year or farmers and local banks will be bankrupt.