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Errant gardens out of auction

Siliguri, Nov. 24: The Siliguri Tea Auction Committee (STAC) has decided not to put up any tea from the three gardens of Bijoynagar Tea Company for sale in the coming auctions as long as the consignments are not stocked in the warehouse.

The decision follows the revelation earlier this month that transaction worth more than Rs 30 lakh had been made at the auction centre in lieu of tea, which did not exist at all. The non-existing consignments of tea came from the three gardens of the Bijoynagar group and were ostensibly stocked at the group's Siliguri Tea Warehouse.

'We have given a month's time to the warehouse to stock the tea, which was shown as existing in the Arrival and Weighment Report (AWR) provided to brokers,' a STAC member said. 'The sale of tea from this garden will resume only from Sale no. 51 if by then the warehouse is stocked with the tea,' he added. (Auction numbering corresponds with the order of the week in a calendar year. First auction of the year is Sale no. 1 and the last is Sale no. 52).

According to auction rules, tea can be put up for auction only after the entire lot has reached the warehouse. On receiving the AWR, the broker is expected to inspect the produce and the samples before entering them in their catalogue for bidding.

On the basis of a false AWR, four brokers ' Parkon India Pvt Ltd, Care Tea Pvt. Ltd, Associated Brokers and Tea Champagne ' had entered the tea from these gardens in the catalogue for sale.

Since Sale no. 42, tea worth more than Rs 30 lakh were sold at the auction without the tea actually being present in the warehouse. In some cases, customers got their supplies, but they were inferior to the samples that the buyers had actually bid for.

After a long-drawn meeting of the sales advisory committee, the STAC yesterday decided to defer the sale of about 600 packages (30-32 kg each) that were listed in the coming auctions.

'We have asked the concerned brokers to ensure that the tea is present in the warehouse before offering it for sale,' a STAC member said.

Sources said the STAC has asked all the warehouses here to make proper verification of their stocks before submitting AWRs to brokers.

A STAC member said more surprise checks would be conducted in other warehouses. It was during such a check by STAC's warehousing advisory body that the malpractice was unearthed.

Mohini Das, secretary of Terai Indian Planters' Association, with which the gardens are registered, said: 'Due to some unavoidable reason, tea could not be sent from the gardens. It was not intentional.'

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