The new tea auction centre began operations in the country’s northwest bordering district of Panchagarh on 02 September, making it the third establishment of its kind following the country's first in Chattogram and the second in Sreemangal.
Local sources said the auction centre has facilitated the growth of farming, job generation, trade and business in the region.
President of Small Tea Garden Owners and Tea Traders Association of Bangladesh, Amirul Haque Khokon said the online auction centre has opened up opportunities for the farmers and traders.
The business community will get more profits selling the produce as they need not transport the processed tea leaves to Sylhet and Chattogram for sale. The buyers across the country will visit the local market for their business with the full-fledged operation of the centre that will help to create job generation for hundreds of vulnerable people in the district, he added.
Tea cultivation on plain lands of the region has become popular over the last two decades. The auction centre has marked its third establishment while the two others are in Chattogram and Sreemangal. Growers, traders and the business community find opportunities to boost the tea leaves business and employment in the region
Trade and Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi inaugurated the centre amid a formal ceremony held at the Panchagarh Government Auditorium.
The Minister said the target of opening the new auction centre is to ensure the fair price of the tea leaves for the plain land growers and help to reduce the production cost.
The AL government has met a long-standing demand of the people of the region to set up the auction centre. Tea –leaves are usually auctioned only in Chattogram and Sreemangal. So, the growers and traders of the region have to face troubles and count much depending on those centres for sale.
The new auction centre has created an opportunity for booming tea business and cultivation by reducing transport cost, time, and labour and production costs. Growers will not be deprived of fair prices selling the leaves at low prices to the factory owners. He urged factory owners to take care of the growers' interests.
The Minister also said, “We have started the online auction market in the centre, but it could not be run for long. We will start the physical (in-person) marketing soon. With the beginning of the physical market, bidders and buyers from different parts of the country will visit the district and the business and job opportunities will be expanded.”
The government is planning to resume the Thakurgaon airport to facilitate fast communication for the bidders and buyers from elsewhere in the country.
Earlier, Local tea growers were compelled to sell their produce for Tk 14- 15 per kg, which was lower than the Tk 18 per kg fixed by the Panchagarh District Tea Leaves Price Fixation Committee.
The government will not support it if the factory owners want to deprive growers of fair prices, the minister added.
Initially, 15 bidders vied for purchasing processed tea from Supreme Tea Ltd. Chowdhury Enterprise placed the highest bid during the fixed two-minute bidding session, buying 200 kilograms of the product for Tk 543 per kg. Brokers joined the bidding activities via a virtual platform.
According to Bangladesh Tea Board, at least 12,079 acres of land have been brought under tea cultivation across five northern districts- Panchagarh, Thakurgaon, Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat and Dinajpur.
Last year, a total of 1.78 crore kgs of tea worth Tk 260 crore was produced in the plainland tea gardens, accounting for 19 per cent of overall cultivation in the country. Sylhet and Chattogram regions produced 81% of the total tea production This year, two crore kg of tea is expected to be produced.
Tea cultivation on the flatlands of Panchagarh began in the late 1990s under the direction of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina due to the favourable weather and soil conditions. Later farming expanded in the adjacent districts.
In the last two decades, Panchagarh and Thakurgaon have emerged as the second-largest tea-producing districts after Chattogram and Sylhet.
During a recent visit to the district, this correspondent talked with government officials, the business community and the farmers
Panchagarh Deputy Commissioner, M Jahurul Islam said, that the number of tea gardens on the plain lands of Panchagarh and Thakurgaw district has been increasing day by day as the farmers are getting benefits from the cultivation.
With the operation of a virtual auction platform, the tea- producers of the northern region will get the advantage of reduced transport costs and fair prices to sell their produce and help to strengthen the economy of the region.
Roksanul Islam Leon, a tea farmer and president Panchagarh Tea Productive Cooperative Ltd, there are 200 tea farmers in our cooperative. The farmers have to sell the raw tea leaves to the factory owners in the district at a lower rate despite the fixed price of Bangladesh Tea Board.
The factory owners need not transport the processed tea-leaves elsewhere in the country now. The farmers can know the real price of their produce with the operation of an online auction market in the district and hope to avail reasonable prices, he added.
Supreme Tea Factory - owner Jahangir Alam said, “We have to count additional costs earlier for transportation of the processed tea leaves to Chattogram and Sylhet for auction sale. Now, we can sell the product through an online auction market here that will help us to save money and time.”
Chairman, Bangladesh Tea Board, Major General Ashraful Islam said tea cultivation began in the district with the direction of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2000. Later farming has been expanded in nearby districts. Panchagarh and Thakurgaon have emerged as the second-largest tea-producing districts after Chattogram and Sylhet
In the last year some 1.77, 79,000 kg of processed tea was produced in 25 factories of the district worth around Tk 260 crore accounting for 19 per cent of the total tea production in the country..
Thousands of farmers and tea garden owners of the districts will be largely benefit from the operation of the auction centre as the buyers and bidders across the country will take part in the public sale. The growers will get the reasonable price for their produce.
The Tea Board has approved two wire houses and five brokers’ houses in the district. Several numbers are underway.
The business in the auction centre will boost the economy of the region, he also said.