The weekly bidding of the new tea auction year will finally take place in Chattogram today, two months later than its scheduled start on March 24, much to the relief of tea estates and small farmers, who are sitting on about 2 million kilograms of unsold tea.
About 1.83 million kg of tea was produced in the first three months of the year, according to data from the Bangladesh Tea Board (BTB).
And there is about 0.9 million kg of leftover stock from the previous year, which remained unsold for the cancellation of the first two auctions for the new year scheduled for March 24 and March 31 respectively.
Due to the delayed start of the new auction year, most of the 167 tea estates as well as 5,000 small farmers in Sylhet, Habiganj, Moulvibazar, Chattogram and Panchagarh are in acute financial crisis and are struggling to pay the workers' wages.
More than 3 lakh workers are currently engaged with the tea gardens.
But there now appears to be some movement.
Today's auction though would not be held at the usual venue in Agrabad but in the nearby conference hall of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) at the World Trade Centre to maintain proper social distancing among the bidders as instructed by the tea board in the wake of coronavirus outbreak.
Tea traders and officials of different brokerage houses, however, are expecting weak sales as tea consumption dropped remarkably given that the tea stalls, restaurants and hotels are closed for the countrywide shutdown over the past one-and-a-half months.
Plus, many buyers from Dhaka and elsewhere would not be able to attend.
"The bulk sales would so poor," said Shah Moinuddin Hasan, chairman of the Tea Traders Association of Bangladesh.