‘Fate of auction market becomes uncertain due to big tea traders’

By Our Correspondent

tea gardenIlam, May 23: Fate of the project of constructing an auction trade centre (Auction Market) for Nepali tea has become uncertain owing to the lack of budget.
The government introduced the project of establishing the auction market some three years ago, but the project has fallen in shadow as the government did not allocate any budget to it in the current fiscal year 2018/19.
The budget of Rs. 10 million allocated by the government through Tea and Coffee Development Board in the fiscal year 2017/18 had already been spent, said Dipak Khanal, spokesperson of the board.
If the government does not allocate additional budget to the auction market project in the next fiscal year, development of the tea auction market will be uncertain, Khanal said.
He informed that the budget of Rs. 10 million has been spent on the study of auction market, observation, land acquisition, building construction and office establishment.
Dhulabari and Birtamod of Jhapa were selected as the potential places to establish the auction market of Nepali tea.
“Discussions were held with the Ministry of Agriculture Development and Ministry of Finance about the budget required for the auction market, and we were hopeful, but the government did not include even the tea sector in its fiscal budget of the current fiscal year,” Khanal said.
Minister for Labour, Employment and Social Security Gokarna Bista, during his recent visit to Ilam, said that the government was serious about establishing an auction market for the national and international trade of the Nepali tea.
But, small farmers and farmers’ cooperatives have said that negligence on the part of the government for the construction of the auction market was due to the big traders.
They said that the large traders were not positive for the construction of the tea auction market as it would provide direct access of small farmers and cooperatives to the auction market.
Chairman of Sanghai Group Subash Sanghai, who had come with Minister Bista, said that they did not require any auction market.
The government has backtracked from its plan to construct the auction centre as the big traders do not need auction market due to their direct access to the international market, said Krishna Prasad Subedi, chairman of Ilameli Tea Producers Cooperatives.
However, board’s spokesperson Khanal said that the board was positive to establish the auction market for tea.
Khanal said that entrepreneurs initially forwarded the condition of 15 per cent tax return for the establishment of auction market, as per the demand, the government offered 50 per cent tax return. Again, the entrepreneurs raised the demand to 60 per cent tax return, but the government did not return even the 50 per cent of the tax, he said.
He said that the government also did not take seriously the demand of the entrepreneurs to accept the tea collected in auction as collateral of loan from the bank.
After the indifference of the federal government to the auction market, Suryodaya Municipality had approved the project from a meeting of its municipal council last year.
Rana Bahadur Rai, Mayor of Suryodaya Municipality, said that the Municipality was serious about increasing the access of tea produced in the Municipality area to the third countries.

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