Tea too less for auction to go online at Jalpaiguri

Siliguri, Dec. 12: Members of the North Bengal Tea Auction Centre (NBTAC) in Jalpaiguri have to be satisfied with only a demonstration of electronic auction system thanks to the pathetic inflow of the brew.

The experts from NSE.IT, the information technology wing of National Stock Exchange that has designed the software, will only make a presentation of the system at a programme in Jalpaiguri on December 14. The e-auction systems are being launched at six other auction centres in the country this month. While the system is already in place in Calcutta and Guwahati, it will be introduced in Siliguri tomorrow,

“The tea board has decided to introduce e-auction at all six auction centres save Jalpaiguri where the brew is hardly sold nowadays,” G.Boriah, the director (tea development), told The Telegraph over the phone from Calcutta. “A presentation will be held along with formal release of the Dooars-Terai tea logo at the centre.”

The centre, which became operational in February 2005, has been facing a crunch in the flow of the brew for quite a few months. Although it had recorded the sale of lakhs of kg in the first three years, only 6,000-odd kg of tea were auctioned in the current financial year, prompting the authorities to cancel the sales dates.

“We are aware that the e-auction will not be introduced in Jalpaiguri and it will be the only centre where the system would not be available,” said N.K. Basu, the secretary of the NBTAC.

“Given the present condition of the auction centre and its discouraging sales figures, we are keeping our fingers crossed and are not very sure of the centre’s future,” he added.

Stakeholders of the industry feel that the centre is at a difficult juncture now.

“Low inflow is leading to low sales and that is why the tea board cannot finalise the launch of e-auction here,” a member of the NBTAC said. “We fear that the situation will become worse and sales might further drop if e-auction is not put in place. It is already behind other centres in terms of sales.”

Following the pathetic state of the centre, the residents have formed the Save Jalpaiguri Tea Auction Centre Committee to mount pressure on the government to bring it on a par with the Siliguri centre. Although Jalpaiguri district has the highest number of tea estates in north Bengal, the centre is suffering because of poor inflow of the commodity.