Tea Board postpones all India e-auction of tea

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KOLKATA: The Tea Board has postponed the pan-India electronic auction of tea to Thursday. While the government agency didn’t cite any reasons for deferring the auction that was to begin on Tuesday, the tea broking community said lack of clarity on the payment of central sales tax and issues over the payment settlement system caused the delay.

The e-auction will be held across six centres: Kolkata, Guwahati, Siliguri, Kochi, Coonoor and Coimbatore. E-auction has been taking place separately at these centres for some time now, but linking the centres through an electronic platform is happening for the first time. Incidentally this is for the first time Darjeeling tea will be offered in an e-auction.

In a two-paragraph news release, the Tea Board said: “Sale number 25 in all auction centres has been deferred to June 23 in the pan India e-auction module.” According to previous schedule, the auction was to happen on June 21 (Tuesday) in Kolkata, Guwahati and Kochi. For Coimbatore, it was June 22 (Wednesday), and for Coonoor, June 23 (Thursday).

“We will first have to know what are the legal obligations of a broker (over central sales tax) in case the sale is to a registered dealer in West Bengal,” a veteran broker at Kolkata auction centre said. “This is applicable for brokers at all the auction centres.”

Also, the payment settlement system involved in the e-auction system is not fully in place, which has also made the Tea Board to defer the eauction, brokers said.

The board has yet to finalise the payment settlement issue for e-auction. It recently replaced IndusInd Bank as the settlement bank for the Rs 17,000 crore tea industry and brought in Bank of India.
In the process, IndusInd Bank has lost an Rs 8,000 crore business from the tea industry.