The Sri Lanka Tea Board (SLTB) and Calcutta Tea Trade Association (CTTA) have deployed the Colombo Tea e-Auction platform, which uses Microsoft Azure to host virtual auctions during the pandemic.
SLTB and CTTA had held live, in-person auctions for 137 years to sell tea to exporters and tea brands, but partnered with Circa Solutions to create a replacement online platform for use during the pandemic.
Used by Sri Lanka’s eight tea brokering companies and over 300 tea buyers and exporters, the system has five synchronised virtual auction rooms, which are connected via Microsoft Teams.
“About two million people depend on this industry for their livelihood,” said Jayantha Karunaratne, chairman of CTTA. “We had to keep them paid and safe. With the new system in place, the industry could continue to operate, and we saw tea prices increase by about nine per cent, which benefitted the whole industry down to the producer level.”
In 2020, the system facilitated the sale of 278 million kilogrammes of tea, which contributed to $1.2 billion towards Sri Lanka’s export revenues. Calculations for 2021 are yet to be announced, but the country expects sales to have grown by an additional eight per cent.
“If you ask stakeholders, many will admit they were reluctant at first, but now they can’t imagine going back to the old auction system,” said Huzefa Akbarally, director of Akbar Brothers Tea. “Most of them want to keep the e-platform because they’ve found it ensures a level playing field and keeps the process fair and transparent.”