Kochi: Electronic auction, or e-auction, in tea was rolled out in Kolkata on Wednesday, and by 20 December it will be launched across the other centres at Guwahati in Assam, Jalpaiguri and Siluguri in West Bengal, Coonoor and Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, and Kochi in Kerala.

Changing times: A worker in a tea garden in West Bengal. About 52% of India’s annual tea production is routed through auction system. Indranil Bhoumik / Mint

The proposal is to integrate the auction system across the six auction centres in a year and bring it on an international cyber platform so that anyone across the globe can participate in the auction, he added. Once this is in place, the infrastructure at the present auction centres will be transformed to warehouses and distribution centres.

The Tea Board, the government trade promotion body, has spent around Rs18 crore for the e-auction project in tea and the software for this has been readied by NSE.IT, the information technology arm of the National Stock Exchange, Ramesh said.

Tea becomes the third commodity in the country after cardamom and tobacco to have e-auction, he added. While e-auction for cardamom was launched in August 2007, that for tobacco was launched this September.

Tea Board chairman Basudev Banerjee says e-auctions will be done on a trial basis across all the centres alongside the old “outcry system". This is to familiarize the participants with the new system and also look out for glitches, if any, he added. But from 27 January, all the auction centres will come under the new system, he said.

Currently, around 52% of the country’s annual tea production of 850 million kg is routed through the auction system. The new electronic trading platform will ensure fairer trade and better mechanism for a fair price discovery.