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Traders force tea auctions to a halt

Calcutta, Jan. 6: Traders at Calcutta tea auctions have put off sales slotted for January 6 to January 8 to protest the Tea Marketing Control Order 2003 and plan to take their problems with the edict to the commerce ministry.

However, sales at the Guwahati tea auction will be held tomorrow as usual. J. Kakoti, secretary of the Guwahati Tea Auction committee said, “We expect sales to take place tomorrow since there have been no developments so far which can postpone it.” Guwahati sales take place every Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We will discuss certain sections of the TMCO with additional commerce secretary L. V. Saptarishi, who is coming to Calcutta on Thursday. The issue will be discussed the same day with the Tea Board. Sales have been postponed as we need a week’s time to study the new TMCO,” representatives of the Calcutta Tea Traders’ Association said. Sales at Calcutta auctions are held every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The buyers have objected to providing each and every detail of monthly sales to the Tea Board, as required under the new TMCO. “Some of this is extremely sensitive information which cannot be shared with anybody,” the traders said.

About three million kgs of tea are lying on the floors of the Calcutta auctions. “These teas will be sold in the next three auctions,” they added.

P. K. Sen, chairman and managing director of Carritt Moran & Co, said: “The traders’ move cannot be termed a boycott—sales have merely been postponed till they get to know the implications of the new TMCO. We expect the auction will resume next week.”

The Federation of All India Tea Traders’ Associations today said some clauses of the new TMCO would make it virtually impossible to do business.

The Indian Tea Association—the producers’ forum—has also called a meeting with traders to resume auctions. ITA chairman Bharat Bajoria, however, said producers would comply with the new order.

The new TMCO also empowers the Tea Board to determine the quantity of tea that producers will send to the auctions. The TMCO 2001 had given producers full freedom to either send their produce to the auctions or sell it through other channels. Earlier, it was mandatory for producers to send 75 per cent of their produce to the auctions.

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