The Telegraph
Monday , January 23 , 2017

Tea auction loses flavour

Calcutta, Jan. 22: Tea sales at the Calcutta auctions in 2016 dipped nearly 3.9 per cent to 120.8 million kg from 125.9 million kg a year ago, according to data by J Thomas and Company.

Of the total tea auctioned, 118.5 million kg was CTC, while the rest was Darjeeling.

In 2015, 123.4 million kg were sold was CTC with Darjeeling making up the rest.

"We have been able to sell lesser amount of quality CTC tea this year. Most of the CTC variety sold was of low grade and manufactured by bought leaf factories," said C.S. Bedi, managing director of Rossell India, which owns seven estates in Assam.

However, L.N. Gupta, president of the Tea Auction Buyers' Association, maintained that the Calcutta police's decision to declare most of the 32 roads of the Calcutta Port Trust out-of-bounds for heavy vehicles between 8am and 10 pm from September to October was a major deterrent to sales.

"Tea that was scheduled to arrive at the Calcutta auctions was diverted to Guwahati and Siliguri during that period. This affected the overall sales in Calcutta," he said.

However, the average price of the CTC variety in Calcutta rose 0.24 per cent to Rs 149.7 per kg this year from Rs 149.33 a kg last year.

For Darjeeling, the average price increased 13.87 per cent to Rs 325.32 per kg from Rs 285.69 a kg last year.

"Prices for both CTC and Darjeeling teas were down in 2015. Last year, there was an improvement in prices but not for quality produce. This is nowhere near our cost of production for Darjeeling, which has increased by at least Rs 25-30 a kg," Arun Narain Singh, managing director and chief executive officer of Goodricke Group, which owns 30 gardens in Darjeeling, the Dooars and Assam, told The Telegraph.

"Demand is increasing for the cheaper CTC tea, while that for the better quality is stagnant. Also, the payment problem in pan-India e-auctions has affected prices as buyers preferred sourcing tea privately," Gupta of the Tea Auction Buyers' Association said.

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