Veteran actor Victor Banerjee at the charity auction in Guwahati on Tuesday. Picture by UB Photos
Guwahati, Dec. 3: A tippy golden flowery orange pekoe — an orthodox variety grade tea from a garden in Arunachal Pradesh — fetched Rs 73,000 a kg at the grand charity auction held today.
Wagh Bakri — India’s third largest tea packet company, bought the tea.
Sources said the company has spent Rs 28 lakh to buy 38kg of the tea. The company had spent around Rs 40 lakh to buy tea at the auction.
The Rs 700-crore Gujarat-based company, which sources 30 million kg of Assam tea, controls a 15 per cent share of the country’s 360 million kg packet tea market.
The top two packet tea companies in the country are Hindustan Unilever Ltd and Tata Tea.
Wagh Bakri markets 35 million kg, of which 30 million kg is Assam tea, 4 million kg from Dooars and 1 million kg from South India
Of the Assam tea segment, 12 million kg is procured from gardens and 18 million kg through auction, of which 8 million kg is from the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre.
“Assam tea will always have its own place as it is known for its body,” Piyush Desai, the chairman of Wagh Bakri Tea Group, said today.
The tea belongs to Mouling Tea Processors, a company registered under the Tea Board and situated in Upper Siang district.
Though the first session had already netted Rs 86 lakh, tremendous activity was seen in the last session and with chief minister Tarun Gogoi in the chair, inspiration soon followed.
As the last lot — number 11 — came up for sale, it was known that there was going to be surprises and the buyers bid higher.
And when the deal was settled at Rs 73,000 a kg, a hush descended on the audience. The session was conducted by actor Victor Banerjee and director J. Thomas Ravi Suchanti.
Not only from the tea world, there were guests from the fashion world and wildlife world, too. From the wildlife sector was conservationist Prerna Singh Bindra and from the fashion world was Zoya Afroz — Femina Miss India 2013.
The auctioneer for the last lot of tea was Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi who hit the hammer when the tea was sold finally for Rs 73,000, bringing cheers from the audience.
Altogether, 26,667 kg of tea was auctioned today at two venues in the city — at GTAC and at ITA Pragjyoti auditorium.
A sum of Rs 1.83 crore was collected from the special charity auction and the money will go to three organisations working in the disability sector.
The three organisations, which will benefit from the proceeds of the auction, are Moran Blind School, and Vaani and Shishu Sarothi, both NGOs.
A number of important personalities of the tea world, including Jaffer Ali, the first man to buy tea from the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre, were present on the occasion.
The first lot at GTAC was auctioned on September 25, 1970 and was auctioned at a price of Rs 42.50 per kg (considered to be fabulous during those days) and knocked down the hammer to a local trader from Jorhat, Jaffar Ali of Diamond Tea Co.
Jaffer, with a never-say-die spirit surprised many by buying tea at Rs 2,500 per kg in the second session, which was greeted by a big applause from the audience.
Retired Supreme Court Judge S.N. Phukan, who owns Bahoni tea estate — the first garden to send tea to GTAC in 1970 — asked planters to send more teas to the GTAC.
“The gesture shown by the buyers for participating in today’s special auction meant for the disabled, was tremendous,” Kamal Das, a senior official of Paramount Tea Marketing (P) Ltd, told The Telegraph.
The first session saw brisk buying from the tea buyers who relished the manual outcry system.
In fact they were bidding with great energy knowing that the cause is equally great.
In the first session, Assam industries minister Pradyut Bordoloi became an auctioneer and enjoyed the brief changeover from a politician to an auctioneer.
The auction saw good participation from all from the organised tea sector. The bought-leaf factories, too, have sent tea. Two gardens from Arunachal Pradesh participated in the auction. Apart from CTC tea, orthodox tea was also offered.