Guwahati: A kilogram of Assam’s gold tea just sold for a record-breaking price of Rs 70,501 on Wednesday at an online auction. The Assam Company India Limited (ACIL) sold a kilo of gold tea from their Maijan plantation to Mundhra Tea Company traders in Guwahati.
The amount shatters the previous record held by Manohari group for the price of a kilogram of gold tea that sold at the same public auction for Rs 50,000 a day before.
“Maijan Orthodox Golden Tea tips have created history and a new record today at Guwahati Tea Auction Centre Sale No. 31. This year, we had produced this select tea for exclusive buyers. Most of our buyers for this exclusive tea were not aware of revised ceiling of increase in the upper limit of sale price at GTAC from Rs 50,000 to Rs 75,000, otherwise prices could have gone higher. Nevertheless, it is a proud moment for Assam and the entire tea industry,” said Sanjay Jain, Director ACIL while attending to a buyer from China who is in the state looking for old heritage tea.
The company has trusted buyers from Iran, US, Germany, United Kingdom and other European countries besides selling tea in domestic market.
Terming it a tedious process that takes several days, Sanjay Jain said they are following the ‘fine plucking’ process in the production of gold tea, which involves fine plucking of leaves in specific conditions, hand rolled and dried naturally. Special exclusive tea clones like N-436, P-126, S3 A3 and S3 A1 have produced the quality gold tea at the ACIL plantations.
The gold tea has been produced from bushes that are more than 100 years old.
“Gold tea is 100% hand rolled. This year, we have made the tea from tea leaves bushes that are over 100 years old. Old tea bushes give quality leaves, but the yield comes down substantially after a certain age of the bushes. Normally the tea estates go for re-plantation after the bushes have attained an age of 50 years to maintain the yield level at their estates.”
The oldest tea company in the world, the Assam Company India Limited was incorporated by the Royal Charter of the British Empire in 1839. Of the 14 tea estates across the state, the ACIL group currently has 10 plantations in Upper Assam’s Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts. The Maijan tea garden encompasses over 500 acres of land in Dibrugarh.
“Assam Company (I) Limited has gone through the corporate insolvency resolution process (CIRP) proceedings last year. BRS Ventures Investment Ltd participated in the process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), 2016 and came out successful bidders. We acquired the company after the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), Guwahati order in September 2018,” said Jain.
The company’s peak production till 2015 was 1.3 crore kilograms, and having gone through tough times in past few years, the average price realization of ACIL tea stood at Rs 180 last year. According to Sanjay Jain, the company is targeting a total production of 1.10 crore kilograms this year, and is aiming to improve the price realizations substantially in the current season.
“The production has come down substantially because of a number of reasons - water logging and soil erosion primarily, the plantations are located near the Brahmaputra river bank."
The ACIL group is trying to augment production of specialty teas while already producing Orthodox, CTC, Green, Silver, Purple, and Gold tea.
“Under the leadership of Chairman BR Shetty, the company has made a paradigm shift in quality and is striving for excellence. The company’s Doomur Dullung tea estate has achieved the number one ranking in average tea sale price of CTC tea at Kolkata Tea Auction till date. It was earlier ranked at 185,” said Jain.
Tea producers in the country are struggling through hard times while trying to bring about innovation in the industry – the rising costs of production are hardly compensated by the prices realized. Echoing the thoughts of other tea planters, Sanjay Jain appealed to the Assam government and the Centre to do their bid in restoring the nearly 200 year old Assam tea industry.
“Tea is basically about innovation and value addition. Indian consumers are getting average or low quality tea and the tea producers should come forward and produce quality teas and help the tea industry to regain its lost glory. Input cost has increased three times in the last decade. We had to change our school of thought and become more proactive, but we need support from the government.”