Auction reaches Assam’s ‘tea capital’ Jorhat after almost two centuries

Amid COVID-19 lockdown, a long-felt need of the tea planters across six contiguous eastern Assam districts becomes a reality

Published - June 02, 2020 12:47 pm IST - GUWAHATI:

A tea worker plucks tea leaf in a tea garden in the out skirts of Guwahati. File photo

A tea worker plucks tea leaf in a tea garden in the out skirts of Guwahati. File photo

Auctioning, a preferred marketing system of the tea industry, has reached Assam’s “tea capital ” Jorhat almost two centuries after striking roots there.

On Monday, some 45 buyers bid for about 24,000 kg of green, orthodox and CTC teas from 38 estates sold at the inaugural e-auction in Jorhat, the headquarters of Jorhat district located 308 km east of Guwahati.

CTC is the crush, tear and curl method of processing black tea.

It was a landmark event amid the “ COVID-19 lockdown gloom”. Bringing the auctioning system “home” had been a long-felt need of the tea planters across six contiguous eastern Assam districts – Golaghat, Jorhat, Sivasagar, Charaideo, Dibrugarh and Sivasagar – that together produce more than 450 million kg of the State’s annual tea output of 720 million kg.

This 450 million kg is more than what Kenya and Sri Lanka, two of Assam tea’s strongest global competitor, produce individually.

“Our green tea, the first lot to be auctioned, fetched ₹502 per kg. It was a special feeling to have sold from the capital of Assam’s tea industry,” said Bidyananda Barkakoty, owner of Mahalaxmi Tea Estate in Golaghat district and adviser to the North Eastern Tea Association.

Jorhat’s auction centre is the second in Assam after the one in Guwahati that was established five decades ago. Tea Board of India’s Deputy Chairman Arun Ray had launched Jorhat's e-auction system digitally on May 21, the first International Tea Day.

Monday’s e-auction was conducted by mjunction, India’s largest business-to-business e-commerce company.

‘Transparent and easy finance’

“The auctioning platform will significantly reduce the sale cycle time, easing working capital burden besides providing transparent and easy finance for the stakeholders,” said mjunction’s Managing Director Vinaya Varma.

At present, about 50% of teas are sold through auction platforms. Planters in eastern Assam believe the Jorhat auction centre would help bring down the selling time and cost besides ensuring a secured payment system.

What has been equally significant for them is Jorhat’s debut as an auction centre after playing a part in the first international auction of Assam tea in London on January 10, 1839.

Although the first tea estates 197 years ago were established further east, some of the best lots of tea at the London auction were believed to have been sent from the Jorhat area where Maniram Dewan became the first Indian commercial tea planter.

He was hanged in February 1858 for conspiring against the British during the 1857 uprising. According to a school of thought, the British had removed him from the competition in the tea business.

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