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Tea traders worried over spurious arrivals

L.N. Revathy

Coimbatore , Feb. 26

AN air of excitement and anxiety looms large among the tea trade as price levels start to move northward at the auctions, on the one hand, and spurious teas start flowing in, on the other.

These teas, traders confirmed, were not sold through auction, but privately. Such teas were traded at night and said to account for 20 per cent of the sales.

"The Tea Board will have to initiate penal action on those engaged in such unscrupulous activities to protect the trade,'' a broker told Business Line.

Supply factor

Attributing this development to the anticipated shortfall in availability, the trader said the first flush of Assam teas would be delayed by a month because of the late rains.

Meanwhile, traders said both the internal and export buying had picked up. At the current week's sale at Coonoor, about 8.25 lakh kg was on offer and fully taken up.

The catalogued volume for the coming week stands at 7.41-lakh kg. Prices are said to have risen by Rs 8-12 a kg for the dust grade and slightly higher for the leaf grade.

Prices seen rising

Confirming the trend, Mr A.I. Kurian of Forbes Ewart and Figgis (P) Ltd, said the prices showed substantial improvement and some of them were selling for about Rs 10 above the January prices.

"We feel that February average for Kochi auctions will be above Rs 55 and this figure will go up to Rs 60 plus in March 2006. Even in April we anticipate values to remain firm to dearer at Rs 62 and Rs 65.''

While conceding that it would be difficult to predict with any degree of definiteness, he said the present trend showed that the prices would be much higher than the 2005 levels.

"The CTC prices, in the short term, will go up further — thanks to demand from Pakistan. Since the availability will be lower from Kenya, the possibilities of other CTC buyers from Poland, the Gulf region, etc., entering South Indian markets are very bright. Besides, there are indications that Kenyan exporters are buying South Indian teas to bring down their blend cost so that the traders' loss can be minimised. All these points out to a strong market for CTC leaf grades in the coming months,'' he said.

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