Colombo tea auction turns 130

Thursday, 1 August 2013 02:24 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The world’s biggest of its kind, the Colombo Tea Auction this week celebrated its 130th anniversary. Forbes and Walker Tea Brokers, one of the pioneering broking firms since the inception, said the anniversary fell on Tuesday and expressed hope for continued success for Colombo Auctions. Somerville & Co in 1878, Forbes & Walker in 1881 and Keell & Waldock, which later became John Keells Ltd., were the original brokers. An extract from the Ceylon Observer of 30 July 1883 reads as follows: “First public sale of tea in Colombo – This came off at the office of Sommerville & Co. Ltd., this afternoon. The result shows that there are buyers, but that there is still a considerable difference between sellers’ and buyers’ idea of prices, which will rectify itself. We congratulate Sommerville & Company on being the first to start a local sale and trust there will be long and prosperous succession.” The five lots amounting to 140 chests were as follows: Lot No. 1 999lb Kabbaragalla un-assorted in 50lb chests – sold at 0.45cts. Lot No. 2 2240lb Agar’s Land in 40lb chests – out at 0.50cts 0.43cts bid Lot No. 3 480lb Agar’s Land in 40lb chests – same as above Lot No. 4 1260lb Agar’s Land in 40lb chests and in 2lb pkts – no bid Lot No. 5 540lb Oodawarra Pekoe in 99lb chests 300lb Oodawarra BP 360 PS 450 broken mixed – out at 0.50cts 0.45cts bid It was an inauspicious start where only one out of the five lots was sold. There is no record of auctions after this date until 1885, when Forbes & Walker catalogued and auctioned 14 lots. Since then, however, the Colombo Tea Auctions have grown from strength to strength, and on 26 July 1983, at the centennial tea auction 5.2mn kg consisting 5,398 lots were auctioned. “Today on the 130th anniversary we have 8,124 lots represented by 6.4 m kilos of tea. The Colombo Tea Auction maintains a high of 12,000 lots and approximately eight million kilos. Over the years the industry has witnessed the establishment of the Colombo Tea Traders Association in 1884 and the Colombo Brokers Association in 1886,” Forbes said.