GUWAHATI, July 10 – The Guwahati Tea Auction Centre (GTAC) is having a tough time in maintaining its status of the biggest tea auction centre in the country, while, the strike by the tea warehouses from today following a difference of opinion about the rent may pose problems for the centre in the days to come.
Tea industry sources told The Assam Tribune that Assam produces around 450 million kilograms of tea every year and till a couple of years back, around 150 million kilograms were sold through the GTAC, making it the biggest auction centre in the country. But unfortunately, Guwahati is fast losing out to Kolkata Auction Centre and in fact, Kolkata has managed to surpass Guwahati. Sources said that according to records available, the annual sale of tea through GTAC has dropped to around 125 to 130 million kilograms , while, the sale in Kolkata has increased to around 130 to 135 million kilograms.
Sources said that if the strike by the Warehouses continues for a long time, the sale number 28 due on Tuesday next would not be affected, but the subsequent sales would be seriously affected and if the major sellers start selling through Kolkata, the GTAC would face hard days.
The Guwahati Tea Warehousing Association has been demanding increase of rates, but the issue has not yet been resolved and though the Tea Board has appointed an agency to look into the matter and evaluate the rates, it would take some time for the agency to conduct a thorough study into the matter to give its recommendations.
Meanwhile, the president of the warehousing Association, Ramesh Jain said that at present, 24 warehouses are functioning in Guwahati city and four went out of business. He said that at present, the warehouses were receiving entry fees of Rs 16 per bag from the tea sellers for a period of one month and an additional charge of Rs 1.75 in every subsequent week. He said that as the warehousing business was turning out to be economically unviable, they demanded that the entry fees should be enhanced to Rs 30 per bag, but the associations representing the tea companies refused to accept the same. The Association decided to go on a strike from today after the warehousing rates in Kolkata were raised from Rs 17 to Rs 21 from yesterday, he added.
The consultative committee of planters associations met this morning to discuss the issue and offered to increase the rate to Rs 19 but the warehouse owners refused to accept the same.