• NETA Opposes 100% Dust Auction | Spotlight on Safe Tea in 2024 | India to Send Trade Delegation to Iran

    By Aravinda Anantharaman | Managing Editor

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    India Mandates All Tea Dust to be Sold at Auction
    India mandates that all tea dust must be sold at auction

    NETA Opposes 100% Dust Auction

    Kamal Jalan, Chairman of The North Eastern Tea Association (NETA), spoke on the challenges facing the Assam tea industry and the way forward. The Association, which held its biennial general meeting in Golaghat, Assam, on March 13, has spoken against the latest government order for 100% of Tea Dust to be sold via the auction system, calling it detrimental to the industry’s survival. They also raised the issue of food safety compliance, calling for greater awareness among small tea growers, increased testing and facilities needed to conduct tests at factories, and a roadmap towards achieving 100% compliance with food safety standards. They also raised the issue of stopping tea production in winter, which is now practiced in north India. The Association has said they do not favor reducing production but instead focus on the generic promotion of tea in the domestic market, aiming for per capita consumption of 1 kilo.

    Safe Tea Comes into Focus

    Indian tea is seeing a renewed and determined march towards food safety. After coming under constant flak, 2024 opened with the Food Safety Standards Association of India, calling for more compliance and partnering with the tea board to see how this can be effected. It’s good to see it in action. Last week, the FSSAI led a training session in the Nilgiris on safe and hygienic tea production practices for small tea growers. In North Bengal, the domestic certification body Trustea partnered with the association of small tea growers for training on pest control, soil health management, and pesticide use.

    India Sends Delegates to Iran

    Iran, once a big buyer of Indian tea, has ceased to import the same volumes as before. The Mint reported that tea shipments to Iran have dropped from 54.5 mn kilos in 2019 to 5.2 mn between January and November 2023. Iran is still considered an important export market; a trade delegation is planned to dialogue with Iranian authorities. Shipping disruptions and payment challenges aside, Iran had an internal crisis in November 2023 when tea importer Debsh Tea Company was embroiled in a $3.4 billion embezzlement scandal. India’s tea exports to the UAE dropped 25% from 2022 to 2023.

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  • India’s Cloud Auction Option

    Jorhat Tea Auction Centre
    Jorhat Tea e-Marketplace in Assam, India is the nexus of five major tea-growing districts with annual output of more than 200 million kg,

    Tea Day e-Auction Highlights Boutique Teas

    Buyers seeking quick turn-around of fresh tea from specialty and smallholder gardens in India bid record prices at a the first International Tea Day auction, the latest of 1.3 million kilos of tea traded since June 2020. All teas on offer were plucked May 21.

    The e-Marketplace at Jorhat is cloud-based making it accessible to buyers around the world.

    There are currently six auction centers in physical locations, each run by a separate committee which acts as the auction organizer, all sharing an electronic auction system pioneered by the Tea Board of India. About 500 million kg of tea out of India’s annual estimated at 1,350.

    “We created India’s first e-marketplace for buying and selling bulk tea. Along similar lines, we want to develop an international e-marketplace where foreign buyers can directly buy fresh tea from the gardens in the shortest possible time with complete transparency” says mjunction managing director Vinaya Varma.

    Vinaya Varma
    Vinaya Varma

    The International Tea Day Special Auction on June 21 was organized by mjunction Services, India’s largest B2B e-commerce company. The e-Marketplace launched last year amidst the lockdown. India offers a wide bouquet of teas across the year and ships regularly  to more than 90 countries. At a webinar on the occasion of International Day, Indian Tea Association Chairman Vivek Goenka said that India has set an export target of 300 million kg by 2023 — a 20% increase by next 2-3 years.

    Mjunction is an equal joint venture of Tata Steel and SAIL (the Steel Authority of India), is India’s largest B2B e-commerce company and a leading e-marketplace for steel in the world. Since inception in 2001, mjunction has e-transacted over INRs 1,053,663 crore ($142 billion) on its various e-platforms (an Indian crore is currently valued at $135,000 USD).

    Varma said there is a lot of excitement amongst stakeholders on the teas offered in the special auction and have got tremendous response and fetched some record prices. “More than 93% of the total teas on offer got sold. Buyers had logged in from Assam, West Bengal, Delhi, Gujarat, and Rajasthan,” he said.

    Nilesh Divekar of Shangrila Enterprise, who purchased Pabhojan Orthodox at Rs 4,000 per kg, said he  appreciates the efforts of the mjunction team to provide such a platform where best of the teas are available fresh and in small quantities without any hassles.

     Most of the best marks of Upper Assam like Hookhmol, Lankashi, Diroibam, Aideobari Premium, Muktabari, Rungliting Tea Estate, Narayanpur Panbarry, Durgapur, Tirual, Arin, Kathonibari, Friends Tea and Pabhojan participated.

    Pabhojan Tea Estate INRs4000 Record Price
    The Pabhojan Tea Estate orthodox tea pictured above brought a record INRs 4000 ($54 per kilo)

    Pabhojan Orthodox tea was sold at a record price of INRs 4,000 per kg. Diroibam Speciality Green tea was sold at INRs 1000 per kg, and a Hookhmol CTC tea fetched INRs 510 per kg – also record prices in their respective categories.

     Rakhi Dutta Saikia of Pabhojan Organic Tea Estate  lauded mjunction’s efforts on the occasion. “I am very happy that Pabhojan has fetched a record price, and  hope the mjunction platform continues the good work,” she said.

     Dr. Nazrana Ahmed of Diroibam Tea Estate, whose Green Tea was sold at INRs 1,000 per kg, said, “Today’s special auction is of special significance to us, as we have received the highest bid for our Specialty Green Teas. We are happy with the professional approach of the mjunction team and the trust reposed on the platform by the buyers.”

     He said the company is trying to make small tea growers’ tea available to the connoisseurs of tea worldwide.

     “Our Jorhat office is in constant touch with the small tea growers  segment. There is a lot of interest from STG to be part of our platform.

    We are very well aware of their struggle and contribution to the tea industry in Assam as well as the rest of the country. “mjunction is also very well aware that many of these small tea growers are producing some of the finest handcrafted tea in the country. Some of the tea is also organic and there is a huge demand in the world market for such tea” he said.

    He said in one year, it has  been able to bring a lot of buyers and sellers who have been outside the purview of auctions till now. There are many first-time tea entrepreneurs who are now associated with our platform.

     “We hold weekly sales. Our first sale was on June 1, 2020 and since then we have not dropped a single weekly sale. During the past year the e-Marketplace connected with hundreds of sellers and buyers across the country, fetched some record prices and received offerings of more than 1.3 million kg of tea from Assam, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh. Nearly 300 stakeholders, consisting of major tea buyers and sellers, are registered in this tea e-marketplace.

     “The founding principles and processes of our e-marketplace and Tea Board are different, so a comparison is not really possible,” he said.

     The event organized by mjunction elicited positive response from buyers and sellers alike. Kamal Sharma and Pradeep Sharma, Directors of Tea World who purchased Hookhmol CTC from the platform at INRs 510 per kg, said, “With shorter cycle time, teas sold on the mjunction platform are the freshest. We are pleased to have bagged Hookhmol. We have had our own packet with brand name Shree Mangalam since 2002, and we are committed to give our customers the best of Assam tea.”

    “While the pandemic hit the industry adversely, it has also given us a chance to let go of inefficient and archaic systems. If we look around in the last one year, the adoption of technology and digital platforms has been wide, deep and rapid. Similarly, the industry leaders must think of ways to include technology in plantation, manufacturing, trading etc while focussing on delivering quality produce.

     “I am optimistic about the Indian tea industry picking up using new-age processes and technologies,” he said.

     “Many specialty tea producers from North East India have approached our Jorhat office for inclusion. We are going to have separate catalogues for specialty teas and we are expanding our buyer base of Speciality teas” he said.

     He said the company will shortly be introducing Buyer and Seller Finance. Again this will be a first of its kind in the industry, as this shall be provided through the platform in a transparent manner. “We are also planning a B2B bulk packet platform, where single-origin and other packeteers may directly sell to retailers across the country, without intermediaries,” he added.

     The company is focused on bringing down the sales cycle-time and making freshly produced tea available in the market, directly from the producing region in the shortest possible time. “We want to make the supply-chain efficient, and ease up the working capital burden of the stakeholders,” Varma added.

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