Two farmers from the village of Uzbekistan in the Akkurgan district of the Tashkent region, 39-year-old Sherali Toshiboev and 54-year-old Erkin Maripov, were arrested for not repaying loans for cotton. Erkin Maripov was released on November 24 after his family repaid part of the loan. Sherali Toshiboev remains in custody.

Radio Ozodlik reported that Toshibaev was arrested for not repaying a cotton loan he received from Agrobank and Maripov for the loan he received from “Akkurgan Agro-Cluster” LLC.

A representative of the Tashkent region hokimiyat confirmed the arrest of the two farmers and said that “several more farmers” from the Akkurgan district had been arrested since October for not fulfilling the state cotton quota and not repaying loans.

Farmer Arrested during Meeting at Hokimiyat

According to Toshiboeva’s mother, Bibikhadicha Mantieva, her son was arrested on October 27 because of debts of 32 million soum which he owed to the regional branch of the Agrobank. Mantieva said that her son was taken from the meeting room at the hokimiyat in handcuffs and the family found out about his arrest the next day. Toshibaev remains in a Tashkent prison and the family is looking for funds to repay the loan.

“A representative of the regional prosecutor’s office told me that they would let my son go as soon as I had paid off the debt of 32 million soum. But I do not have so much money. We have spent all the money on the cultivation of cotton. I am a single mother. My son has a plot of land for building a house. Now we have to sell it”, said Bibihadicha Mantieva.

Mantieva says that this year the cotton bollworm badly damaged the cotton, then a herd of cows trampled the fields, resulting in a failed cotton harvest.

According to Ozodlik, the farmers have been charged under Article 167 of the Criminal Code (embezzlement by misappropriation).

Farmer Spent 22 Days in Prison

A copy of the court verdict from November 3, 2018, published by Ozodlik, states that Erkin Maripov was charged with misappropriating funds totaling 53,948,000 soum which he had received from the Akkurgan Agro-Cluster LLC to cover the costs associated with the cultivation of cotton.

He was released on November 24 after his family paid part of the loan, an amount of 18 million soum. He was warned that he would go to jail if he didn’t pay the rest of the loan within a short time.

In an interview farmer Erkin Maripov gave to Ozodlik after his release from prison, he said that the reason for the poor cotton crop was due to the lack of water and “some misunderstanding.”

“It is difficult to get water to my land. I reported this to all the organizations in due time. I told them that cotton is not good (for my land) and that it would be better to plant grain. Everyone knows about it. But I still don’t understand how these 54 million soum accumulated”.

Speaking of the new cotton cluster system, Maripov said, “The cluster system is not bad. They paid the salaries on time and gave out fertilizers. But if there is no water, it will not work. In order to cultivate the land, I had to sell five of my cows and spent time in prison. I could grow cotton if I had water.”

According to a representative of the hokimiyat, an agricultural cluster system has been introduced in the Akkurgan district as an experiment initiated by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.“ According to this system, farmers receive the funds and equipment necessary for the cultivation of cotton from private enterprises. The loan then has to be paid back from the income from the harvest. If the money is spent and the plan is not fulfilled, then farmers are held accountable.”

Cotton Pests One and a Half Times Higher

This year the agriculture sector has faced a difficult situation due to the lack of irrigation water and the extreme reproduction of insects. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said during a conference call on July 31 of this year, “that if after wintering, the insect release rate is 50 percent, this will be considered an emergency. And this year, insects increased by one and a half times the normal rate. All managers, especially farmers, must take the appropriate measures and increase responsibility for their crops”, he said.

Farmers who have turned to Ozodlik complain that cotton growing and grain cultivation turned out to be very difficult this year. However, they say that farmers are being punished while President Mirziyoyev talks about the need to support them.

Translated from Uzbek.

The original article was published on December 2 on the website of Radio Ozodlik.