The auction centre in Jalpaiguri. (Biplab Basak)
June 22: Tea sale at the North Bengal Tea Auction Centre in Jalpaiguri will resume on June 24, over six months after the process was stopped because of non-availability of brew.
“We had the last auction on November 5, 2013. There was no sale after that because of a halt in the inflow of tea,” said N.K. Basu, secretary of the auction centre. “When the auction centre in Siliguri is celebrating the annual sale of 100 million kg tea, we are staggering.”
The Siliguri Tea Auction Centre, 45km from the Jalpaiguri centre, sold around 107 million kg tea in 2013-2014 fiscal.
Basu said they had approached estates and bought-leaf factories urging them to sell their produce through the Jalpaiguri centre. “We will get about 600 bags of tea (21,000kg) and the auction would be held on June 24. We have also appealed to the state to waive VAT and provide other assistance to sellers and buyers,” he said.
The centre was opened in 2005 and e-auction facility was introduced in May 2012.
“In 2005-06, we had plans to sell 9.51 lakh kg tea but we could sell only 7.76 lakh kg,” said a source at the Jalpaiguri centre. “After e-auction was introduced, we had set a target of 27.48 lakh kg in 2012-13 but we could sell only 18.69 lakh kg.”
At the November 5 auction, 19,000kg tea went under the hammer and only 8,000kg was sold, sources said.
Although Jalpaiguri district has the highest number of tea gardens and bought-leaf factories in north Bengal, planters said they preferred to send their produce to Siliguri and not to Jalpaiguri.
“Facility, consistency and better price realisation are some of the features that draw us to Siliguri. We cannot afford to send tea to a centre where there are irregularities in holding auctions. Despite having estates in the Dooars, we prefer to send tea to Siliguri,” said a planter from Siliguri. The centre was established in 1976.
Sources at the Jalpaiguri centre said formation of Alipurduar district would hit the sales. “Around 60 per cent gardens in Jalpaiguri would be under the new district. We have to bank on the remaining estates and bought leaf factories,” Basu said.