Voicing concern over the suspension of tea factories in Coonoor, bought leaf tea manufacturers have sought to rectify the issues at the earliest, saying that any disruption in the auctions cannot be tolerated considering the integrity of the tea industry.

Also read: Indian Tea Board cracks the whip on Coonoor tea trade over compliance issues

“We stress the critical importance of ensuring that the suspension of auctioneers does not disrupt upcoming auctions which are vital for the livelihoods of thousands of small tea growers”, said Dhananjayan Krishnamurthy, President of the Nilgiri Bought Leaf Tea Manufacturers Association.

The Tea Board suspended all five auctioneers, two tea warehouses and five tea manufacturers from Coonoor auctions on the ground of some anomalies in sampling of teas placed for auctions.

Repeated please in vain

In a letter to the Tea Board, he said there are several issues in Coonoor such as unavailability of warehousing space; overloading of warehouses; buyers not adhering to stipulated time frames for moving teas; essential revision to free trade samples distribution etc. Despite repeated requests to address these issues, the Tea Board has failed to take decisive action, he said adding that the Board must accept full accountability for the current state of affairs.

It is imperative that manufacturers are permitted to upload invoices for the upcoming sale and determine base prices and reserve prices for forthcoming auctions to avoid any disruptions in the auction process. Allowing manufacturers to set their base prices and reserve prices has been a longstanding request repeatedly brought to the attention of the Tea Board through various representations, he said.

Biased enforcement

He said the preferential treatment afforded to auctioneers, permitting them to continue operations in other centers despite their licenses being suspended, is a stark example of biased enforcement. This partiality erodes trust in the regulatory process and lays bare the Board’s failure to uphold its responsibilities impartially.

Also read: Govt mandated 100% auction of dust tea from North Indian tea gardens to ensure greater compliance, boost exports

He said the Association at a stakeholder meeting in July last year had suggested some long-term solutions considering the constraints in warehouse space which is becoming more expensive. This includes solutions to be incorporated into the auction system to reduce the load on the warehouses by allowing manufacturers to catalogue teas from their factories; significantly reduce the cataloging time; overhaul the sample distribution process to align with current market trends; increase the frequency of auctions instead of just two days a week.