Kolkata, June 18 (IANS) Electronic auctioning of the world-famous Darjeeling tea has become uncertain with glitches hitting the launch platform.
The e-auction platform was supposed to start in April at the Kolkata Auction Centre to enable the aromatic tea to reach out to maximum number of buyers.
"The launch of e-auction of Darjeeling tea is currently not on our agenda since some operational hiccups are still there," Calcutta Tea Traders' Association chairperson Sangeeta Kichlu told IANS.
NSE.IT, the technology arm of National Stock Exchange (NSE), has developed the software for the platform.
"It is a complex procedure. We have pointed out the operational glitches to NSE.IT," said Kichlu, also vice president of Jay Shree Tea and Industries, a B.K. Birla Group company.
She said the platform would be rolled out once the glitches were ironed out.
"We are taking time. We will not launch it until the process becomes smooth," she said, adding all the varieties of Darjeeling tea would be put on e-auction once the process started.
She was, however, unable to give any time frame for the process to start.
Darjeeling Tea Association secretary Kaushik Basu said the electronic platform was still in a "fluid state".
He said the country, on an average, produced about 8.5 million kg to 9 million kg of Darjeeling tea and more than 50 percent of that was generally sold through the manual auction route.
The Kolkata Auction Centre is the oldest surviving centre in the world and the country's largest.
Electronic auction was introduced in the city in 2009 for all varieties of tea except Darjeeling tea which was still sold through the manual outcry method.
Sourenee Leaves Pvt Ltd, part of the Titagarh Group, said e-auction of the tea was important for tea growers and owners of tea gardens in Darjeeling.
The company, which has been selling organic tea in bulk through auction and private sales since 2009, said the e-auction should not be kept confined to local entities.
Rather, the platform should be thrown open for global participation which would lead to fair price discovery and exposure of new markets to Darjeeling tea, the company said.
"We are currently losing out. Now we have to sell Darjeeling tea to an internal agency, the agents then sell it out to retailers," said Vinita Bajoria, a member of the Titagarh Group.
"Agents are acting as middlemen in the value chain. So after the rollout of the e-auction platform, tea makers will get proper value of the brew as they will be able to sell it directly to the end consumers," she said.
The e-auction, she said, would be a win-win situation for everyone -- tea garden owners, traders and consumers.
"Tea garden owners will get greater price realisation and buyers will get authentic and fresh Darjeeling tea at a better price," she said.
To start with, at least the first flush and second flush of "the world's finest tea" should be put on e-auction, she said.
(Mithun Dasgupta can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)