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Monday, Jul 22, 2002

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Tea auctions to take the e-route soon

L.N. Revathy


AN infotech plan aimed at simplifying tea auction procedures is in the offing.

The Tea Board Chairman, Mr N.K. Das, told newspersons that the board has developed a comprehensive IT plan, based on the A.F. Ferguson study. ``There is specific emphasis on export strategy, apart from auction report details. A task force which has been set up for the purpose has seen the terms of references. A meeting is slated for July 25', he said.

The Coimbatore Tea Trade Association had approached the Tea Board for technical and financial support for the establishment of the automated bidding system in the auction centre here.

Mr Das said it was time that the age-old `open cry' in the auction route was replaced with the electronic bidding system. He indicated that such information dissemination and connectivity would go a long way in improving the efficiency of the system. Some of the other centres are also being roped in. He however did not reveal the board's commitment in the project.

It may be noted that earlier, the board had agreed in principle to extend a fifty-fifty financial support, but the Coimbatore Tea Trade Association had requested the board to consider greater financial help, as the investment involved was huge.

Although the terms of assistance is not known at this stage, the board has clearly indicated that the IT Plan was in place.

On the tea scenario, Mr Das said the board was now contemplating a medium term strategy for tea, which would include focusing on quality parameters and marketing aspects. ``The industry is in doldrums due to a number of factors, which includes quality, price and market conditions. In such a bleak scenario, a medium term strategy could be considered as the best option,'' he said.

Answering a query, he said ``incentives from the board would be more country specific, and after taking into consideration the difference in the cost of production between the orthodox and CTC category.''

The task force on orthodox teas, he said has submitted a report, which stated that the orthodox tea production capacity in South India was 52 million kg, against which the utilisation levels was 35 mkg. ``There is at least another 15-18 mkg of capacity available, but not utilised,'' he said.

Mr Das said he had asked the UPASI Committee members to examine the cause for the idle capacity in orthodox tea production.

When asked about the board's strategy in re-establishing the country's position in the Russian market, he said, ``the benchmarking exercise (of the types of teas that are produced in India) is over. We have identified the fast-moving categories in the Russian market. There is a proposal to convene a meeting (tea-tasting and sample testing) across various tea producing centres next month. We are confident of re-establishing our position. By October, we should be able to introduce these teas.''

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