With an aim to make the tea marketing smoother amidst the ongoing corona pandemic, the Bangladesh Tea Board (BTB) is going to hold all the tea auctions virtually from now on.
In the 2021-22 auction year, scheduled to start from 3 May next, all the auctions will be held virtually. The board is planning to implement 100% e-auction from this auction year, said BTB officials.
Bangladesh Tea Board member (Finance and Commerce) Dr Nazneen Kawshar Chowdhury told The Business Standard that the e-auction system will be introduced along with the current system in every auction starting from 3 May. Initially, we have planned to keep 50 lots in e-auction.
"After 15 auctions, we will review the e-auction," she continued, "After reviewing the technical issues; we will implement a 100% e-auction system in the current auction year. Once implemented, we hope that it will give a new impetus to tea marketing and business amidst the ongoing Covid pandemic."
Tea Traders Association of Bangladesh (TTAB) Vice Chairman Md Yusuf said, "We have 100% e-auctions in some of the neighbouring countries. Now, it has been introduced in Bangladesh. If it is fully implemented, one can take part in the auction from his or her own office. Efforts of the organisations related to the tea industry are on to implement e-auction fully in the current auction year."
According to a BTB press release sent to the media on 12 April, the Tea Board fixed the date of the new auction year at a virtual meeting of the Tea Sales Co-ordination Committee held on 11 April.
"In this auction year, 47 auctions will be held at Chattogram Tea Auction Centre and 22 at Srimangal Tea Auction Centre. The first auction will be held on 3 May at the Chattogram centre and on 5 May 5 at the Srimangal centre. If needed, the number of auctions will be increased in line with the production and supply of tea," the release said.
Mentionable, on 15 March, in the last auction of the 2020-21 auction year, BTB introduced e-auction system experimentally for the first time. About 12,000 kg tea was sold in that e-auction participated by 25 bidders.
At the 11 April meeting of the Tea Sales Coordination Committee, BTB Chairman Major General Md Zahirul Islam instructed the Tea Traders Association of Bangladesh (TTAB) and Tea Planters and Traders Association of Bangladesh (TPTAB) to conduct tea auction activities following proper hygiene rules and guidelines to prevent coronavirus infection.
The guidelines include ensuring the use of soap/sanitiser for hand washing and usage of masks and hand gloves at the auction centre, broker houses and warehouses; following all health and hygiene guidelines issued by the government.
According to the guidelines, everyone has to enter the auction centre after being sterilised. The auction house has to be disinfected before and after the auction. To ensure social distance, seating arrangements have to be made maintaining at least seven feet gap between two participants at the auction centre. If there is not enough space at the existing auction centres, the venue has to be shifted to a larger hall. Presence of only the concerned persons has to be ensured at the auction centre during the auction.
It is mentionable that in 2016, TTAB first started evaluating the possibility of online tea auction. After the beginning of corona pandemic in the country in March 2020, the BTB instructed TTAB to start online tea auction as soon as possible when tea auction activities were disrupted due to the pandemic. Following this, the e-auction started experimentally on 15 March.