Kochi: India will have an automated electronic auction system for cardamom and tea soon. This will make transactions transparent and quicker. The Spices Board is currently conducting a trial run of the screen-based cardamom auction system and plans to introduce it by May.
The Tea Board hopes to introduce the electronic auction system by November 2007. Over the next fortnight, it plans to identify the firm that will provide the software and maintain the system. “We wish to have in place a fully transparent, fool-proof, automated system,” said V.J. Kurian, chairman, Spices Board.
Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS) is providing the technical expertise and software for the cardamon auctions, and Kurian added that the board had already bought the hardware required for the system.
Currently, auctions are conducted on the traditional open outcry system with bidders raising their voice for every deal. Under the new system, bidders can strike a deal with the click of the mouse; the screen will show details of all the material available for auction.
Manual weekly auctions for cardamom are held at six centres in the heartland of cardamom growing Idukki district in Kerala and neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
The estimated annual production is around 11,000 tonnes. Initially, the new system will be introduced at the auction centre of the Cardamom Planters Association at Bodinaykkannur in Tamil Nadu.
At a later stage, screen-based trading will be introduced at other centres. By the time the new harvest season begins around mid-July, the Spices Board hopes to have the system in place in all auction centres.
The board estimates that it will need Rs10 lakh to move each centre to the online platform.
According to C Rajagopal, president, Cardamom Planters Association, the introduction of the new auction system will benefit growers, traders and brokers.
And K.C. Punnose, who runs an auction centre of the Cardamom Produce Marketing Company (CPMC) at Vandanmedu in Idukki said that the trade would accept “any system that makes trade easier, quicker and beneficial to all.”
Tea Board chairman Basudeb Banerjee said the board has shortlisted two companies to implement its online trading platform. The board did introduce an e-auction at three auction centres in South Kochi, Coonoor and Coimbatore, but the system faced several technical problems.
Deciding to move to a new system, the board did away with the e-auction early this year. Banerjee said there have been various suggestions from the stakeholders of the board, including one which said that the tea exchange should be managed by a company that wasn’t involved in the trade itself.