After South India, tea auctions set to resume in Guwahati on April 23

Of about 600 million mkg of tea sold via auctions in the country, Guwahati takes the largest share at 34%
After about a month, tea auctions are set to resume on Thursday in Guwahati – the largest auction centre in the country - on a highly optimistic note as there is a severe scarcity of tea among buyers.

While the three south Indian centres in Cochin, Connoor and Coimbatore have already commenced operations and concluded some sales, the two other important centres in Kolkata and Siliguri are yet to decide on a date.

“The auctions are going to commence on April 23 after a gap of a month and there is a lot of excitement in the market and increased interest from buyers as tea has not been available all this while,” Dinesh Bihani, secretary at Guwahati Tea Auction Buyers’ Association said.

Sources suggested that though the tea being offered for sale is the leftover stock from the previous season, which is usually cheaper at Rs 40-80 a kilo, prices should increase by around Rs 20 a kilo once the crop goes under the hammer. Around 0.6 million kg (mkg) of tea in about 20,000 packets is being offered for sale in Guwahati.

“It would be because there isn’t any tea available with the buyers and they are ready to pay higher prices due to this scarcity,” a broker from Guwahati said.

Of about 600 million mkg of tea sold via auctions in the country, Guwahati takes the largest share at 34 per cent, followed by Kolkata auction centre at 27 per cent and Siliguri at 23 per cent. The rest is sold via south Indian auction centres.

In the recently concluded Coonoor auctions, where around 1.19 mkg of tea was sold, average prices had soared by 11.86 per cent at Rs. 92.08 a kg leading to optimism in north Indian auction centres as well.

Given the scarcity in the trade, some limited quantity of tea was sold at as high as Rs. 280-300 a kg in Coonoor leading to an increase of 56.27 per cent in terms of earnings from tea sale at Rs. 10.97 crore. In the corresponding sale last year, the earning had stood at Rs. 7.02 crore.

However, in Kolkata and Guwahati, auction committees are yet to decide on the final date of the auctions. 

“Permission has been given for e-auction but we also need permission from the state government to open warehouses and offices of sellers, buyers and brokers. Till these permissions come, it is not possible to decide on an auction date”, Kalyan Sundaram, secretary at Calcutta Tea Traders’ Association said.

According to Sundaram, tea samples first needs to be sent to the buyers based on which buyers would participate in the auctions. 

“So, unless buyers’ offices open, where will the brokers send the tea samples”, Sundaram added.

Most of the warehouses in in Kolkata are located in containment zones as identified by the state government which has put a question on the possibility of reopening them.

The Tea Board has also decided to conduct surprise checks across auction centres to verify and monitor tea quality and given the various logistical constraints owing to the lockdown, has advised brokers to do away with distribution of printed catalogues.

  • Guwahati auction centre handles 34% of total tea sold via auctions
  • Tea prices in Guwahati expected to surge by Rs. 20 due to scarcity
  • Kolkata and Siliguri auction centre yet to resume operations
  • Average tea prices sold in Coonoor rose by 11.86 per cent 

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