The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tea auction minus flavour

Calcutta, Feb. 17: After a gap of one week, tea auction resumed here today but buyers are not sure whether sales will take place in the next few weeks.

Inder Singhee, secretary, National Tea Auction Buyers Association Co-ordination Committee (NTABACC), said: “We have not yet decided whether we will participate in next week’s auctions. We will discuss among ourselves about our future course of action.”

They are currently waiting for the outcome of the cases which the buyers have filed at various courts, he added.

The buyers are agitated over the new Tea Marketing Control Order 2003 as it stipulates them to register with the Tea Board. The buyers will also have to furnish monthly returns about their sales to the Tea Board.

Tea sales were cancelled last week after the buyers disrupted sales. Sale number 4, which was cancelled, took place this week.

When contacted, J. Kalyana Sundaram, secretary of the Calcutta Tea Traders Association, said: “Today’s sales took place smoothly with majority of the buyers participating in the sales. Contemporary and J. Thomas, the two major auction houses, participated in the auction.”

The producers, however, feel that if the buyers do not participate in the auction following their weekend meeting then they will sell their produce through private channels.

Bharat Bajoria, chairman of the India Tea Association (ITA), said: “We are not worried if the auction does not take place. We will sell our products to private parties. Sales will not be affected in any way.”

Around 3 million kg of tea has been put for sale at the auctions which include CTC, dust, orthodox and Darjeeling varieties.

However, prices have firmed up at the Calcutta auctions today with good Assam tea selling at Rs 68-75 per kg.

“The prices are showing an upward trend with an increase of Rs 3-4 per kg. The mood is extremely upbeat. If buyers do not participate in next week’s auction it will dampen the mood of the trade. It is not a welcome step at a time when industry is passing through a bad patch,” said a senior tea trader.

The prices of tea suffered a major setback last year. The worst sufferers were the south Indian producers. The prices of south Indian tea went down below the cost of production. Moreover, there was hardly any export enquiry from Russia for south Indian tea.

The Tea Board, however, maintained that they will not intervene in the auctions since the matter is sub-judice. “We are currently watching the situation,” the board officials added.

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