Business

Online tea auction encounters issues

The Colombo Tea Auction when it was held physically

By Uwin Lugoda

The Colombo Tea Auction website, which was launched last April to conduct online tea auctions for the first time in Sri Lanka, has experienced problems, forcing the Colombo Tea Traders’ Association (CTTA) to float a tender for a new software developer.

CTTA Chairman Jayantha Karunaratne told The Sunday Morning Business that they needed a more advanced system since the initial software was rushed within a period of just 10 days in the month of April, amidst the lockdown imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“When we were developing the initial software for the website, we informed the old developer that they were doing a good job, but we need a more advanced and efficient software in the long run.”

He added that they opened bidding for new developers to create a more transparent, advanced, and efficient e-platform for the online auction.

A list of requirements has been prepared for the website, and the CTTA has appointed a subcommittee consisting of industry stakeholders to overlook and open tenders for the project. The new software is set to cater to all industry stakeholders including the producer, broker, exporter, and regulator.

 “We created the initial site in a hurry because of Covid, but now we want a better e-platform for our tea auction. We currently have around 70 companies bidding on this project, and that includes the initial developer of the software.”

The 137-year-old Colombo Tea Auction, which happens to be the world’s largest, most complex, and oldest tea auction, was forced to go online due to the impact of the ongoing pandemic. To do this, the CTTA turned to CICRA Solutions (Pvt.) Ltd., a local Microsoft partner, in order to digitise their tea auction. During the month of April, CICRA was able to digitally transform the auction process by creating an e-auction platform to enable business continuity.

The company had previously scored successes for the industry by automating its complex tea brokering practices and modernising the Tea Board’s back office system.

The tea auction, which has been a weekly event, with rules and procedures that were first laid down in the 1880s and 1890s, was brought to a sudden halt mid-March due to the local Covid-19 outbreak and had to be suspended for two weeks before the online auction went live.